Annual Brush Fire Mitigation Meeting
Since December of 2014, Kauai has had its most brush fires in the shortest span of time" in recent history, according to Captain Daryl Date, head of the Kauai Fire Department (KFD) Fire Prevention Bureau.
The numbers don't lie: 104 wildfires this year up to June 9th, the date of the Annual Brush Fire Mitigation Meeting hosted by KFD, marks a milestone that has raised concerns for residents and agencies from all over Kauai. At least 60 or so are considered "suspicious", an alarming rate that has led Kauai Police to sound the alarms for reporting any suspicious behavior.
To help Kauai prepare for growing wildfire threats, KFD invited Kauai's largest landowners to a meeting at the Headquarters in Lihue. Captain Date began the meeting with these stark numbers and an up-to-date "heat map" showing the areas that have had the most ignitions thus far since December 2014.
NOAA National Weather Service representative Derek Wroe followed with an insightful look at the fire weather trends. "Lihue had the driest west season in the past 30 years", just one of the many indicators pointing towards a more active fire season. In fact, leeward Kauai is now considered "abnormally dry" (40-50% below normal rainfall during the 2014-15 wet season.) "El Niño has an 80% chance of persisting into the wet season," Wroe explained, "which will delay the onset of the wet season" and thus an early start to next year's fire "season."
With these warnings in mind, HWMO's Pablo Beimler took the meeting participants through a Wildfire Preparedness for Large Landowners/Managers presentation. Mr. Beimler illustrated the basics of fire behavior and applied them to how those factors could be minimized through strategic management practices, including fuelbreak creation and forest thinning.
After the presentation, HWMO reps Mr. Beimler and Vice President Sam Patten distributed Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) input forms to all of the landowners/managers, with the hopes to receive their valuable input by mid-July for the Kauai update. Following the meeting, meeting participants also placed stickers of their areas of concern on a large Kauai map that will go into the plan.
The last segment of the meeting involved a productive discussion amongst the landowners/managers and KFD officials. Each landowner/manager shared their wildfire concerns and mentioned any resources they had that could be made available to KFD for wildfire suppression purposes.
Anahola Fuels Reduction
One of the striking themes from the Mitigation Meeting was the overwhelming consensus that Anahola be one of the targets for fuels reduction projects. Fittingly enough, Mr. Beimler and Mr. Patten traveled to Anahola after the meeting to identify and photograph wildfire hazards along the east side of the island and meet with Anahola Hawaiian Homes Community Association representatives, including Councilman Kipukai Kualii. HWMO had a fruitful discussion over saimin to start the planning process for making Pii Lani Mai Ke Kai a Firewise Community/Fire Adapted Community.
Anahola has had its fair share of scares over the last few months. One of the major hazards identified was an area where abandoned cars and trash/junk were being dumped in tall dry grasses. HWMO will be working with the community to help reduce wildfire hazards. In fact, Anahola will be one of 10-16 communities over the next two years throughout the State!