Authorities Investigate 3 Suspicious Brush Fires Along Waikoloa Road

"Hawaii Fire Department quickly extinguished three brush fires along Waikoloa Road and Route 190 Monday morning. Police believe the fires to be suspicious." Credit: Judy Wilder / West Hawaii Today

"Hawaii Fire Department quickly extinguished three brush fires along Waikoloa Road and Route 190 Monday morning. Police believe the fires to be suspicious." Credit: Judy Wilder / West Hawaii Today

From the Source:

"The first fire occurred on Route 190 near mile marker 12. according to the release, fire personnel were able to quickly extinguish it. The flames consumed approximately 1,000 square feet.

The second brush fire was discovered on the south side of Waikoloa Road near mile marker 10, which crews quickly extinguished. About a 50-foot area was burned.

The last blaze discovered was also on the south side of Waikoloa Road near Uluwehi Street. It destroyed approximately 1,000 square feet."

"Anyone who witnessed the cause of the fires or with information about the blazes is asked to contact Det. Carrie Akina, via email at Carrie.Akina@hawaiicounty.gov, or call at 326-4646 ext. 277.

The department also encourages community members to be aware of the recent fires, especially in the areas of Waikoloa Road and Route 190, and to report any suspicious activity in the area immediately to police at 935-3311."

Why Some Communities Recover Better After Natural Disasters

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

HWMO believes strongly in the importance of working together as a pathway for communities to become more resilient in the face of growing wildfires in Hawaii and the Western Pacific. We use national frameworks such as Firewise Communities, Fire Adapted Communities, ReadySetGo!, and Western Cohesive Strategy and apply them at the local level to bring neighbors together.

The science is there to back this up, too! A research team from Northeastern University has found that post-disaster anxiety from recent climate-related disasters was reduced solely because of social ties. "Individuals who had more friends, neighbors, and relatives nearby did far better than more isolated people," said Dr. Daniel Aldrich, professor and director of the Security and Resilience Program at Northeastern.

From the Source:

"TG: How can people become more resilient?
DA: To become more resilient, my team and I have put together a package of policies that we're encouraging neighborhoods and communities around the world (e.g. Wellington, NZ, Cambridge, MA, San Francisco, CA, etc.) to try out. These include strengthening ties with neighbors, holding regular community events, engaging citizens in every planning and zoning event possible, creating local communities, and building spaces that encourage social interaction."

Integrating Traditional Ecological Knowledge and World Renewal Ceremonies into Fire Adaptation: An Indigenous Stewardship Model

"Shown in this image is a California-hazel-stem basket holding tanoak acorns that were collected from the 2015 Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) burn area. Also shown is a Karuk woman’s “work” basket cap and an acorn cooking paddle made of Pacific maple. These are a few of the resources used by Karuk women to gather and prepare acorn soup. This burn reduced acorn pests, cleared out surface and ladder fuels to improved acorn gathering, and maintained the tanoak cavity at the base of this older tree. Cavities like this are important habitat for animals that hunt small game that eat acorns. " Credit: Frank Lake, USDA Forest Service and Karuk Tribe.

"Shown in this image is a California-hazel-stem basket holding tanoak acorns that were collected from the 2015 Klamath River Prescribed Fire Training Exchange (TREX) burn area. Also shown is a Karuk woman’s “work” basket cap and an acorn cooking paddle made of Pacific maple. These are a few of the resources used by Karuk women to gather and prepare acorn soup. This burn reduced acorn pests, cleared out surface and ladder fuels to improved acorn gathering, and maintained the tanoak cavity at the base of this older tree. Cavities like this are important habitat for animals that hunt small game that eat acorns. "

Credit: Frank Lake, USDA Forest Service and Karuk Tribe.

In Hawaii, traditional ecological knowledge plays a critical role in the path forward towards more resilient and vibrant landscapes and communities. For example, restoring native dryland plants that are culturally significant along watersheds and even around your own home, helps to also reduce fire threats and impacts to our communities, lands, and waters. Hawaii is not alone in integrating traditional ecological knowledge with fire adaptation, there are many other great examples globally, including in the mainland U.S.:

From the Source: 

"The Karuk Tribe’s Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) and belief systems are constructed and preserved in the form of stories, practices, performances and ongoing interactions with the natural world. Among such rituals include our World Renewal Ceremonies, which the Karuk Tribe has practiced since time immemorial. These ceremonies have been passed down for millennia, and are a key part of our local communities’ social fabric. They link human practices like fishing, hunting and gathering to responsibility. They also ceremonially align our culture with ecosystem process and function. In our worldview, cultural resources have a life, as do the people using them. Each life deserves consideration when planning projects, including fire adaptation projects."

How California's Record Wildfire Season Paved the Way for Catastrophic Mudslides

"Santa Barbara County Fire search dog Reilly looks for people trapped in the debris left by devastating mudslides in Montecito, California." Credit: Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire

"Santa Barbara County Fire search dog Reilly looks for people trapped in the debris left by devastating mudslides in Montecito, California." Credit: Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire

As we keep all those affected by the mudslides and flooding in California in our thoughts, we should note that post-fire flooding can impact islands in the Pacific, as well. The characteristics that lead to these events are similar whether in California or in Hawaii.

From the Source:

"Also called post-fire debris flows, these mudslides form when water rushing down slopes picks up dirt, burnt trees, rocks, and other debris (like cars), reaching speeds of more than 35 miles per hour. “When you mix a lot of mud, water, and boulders, it certainly can be quite catastrophic,” says Dennis Staley, a scientist with the US Geological Survey Landslide Hazards Program. The slurries can start with almost no warning after as little as a third of an inch of rain in just 30 minutes — especially on slopes scorched by fires. After fires blazed across more than half a million acres this fall in California’s worst fire season on record, it’s not hard to find burnt land."

Fire makes slopes more susceptible to mudslides for a few reasons, according to climate scientist Daniel Swain’s Weather West blog. For one thing, flames can strip hillsides of plants that would otherwise anchor the dirt in place. Extreme fires that burn through thick vegetation can also physically change the soil — leaving behind a layer of water-repellant dirt near the surface. That layer acts like a raincoat, slicking off water that can then form mudslides, according to the USGS California Water Science Center.

Plus, without plants to slow the rain before it reaches the dirt, the soil can’t absorb as much water — leaving more to race down hillsides as runoff. Imagine the soil as coffee grounds in a filter: if you pour your boiling water slowly, it will soak into the grounds and drip through into your cup. But if you dump your boiling water all at once, a watery, muddy slurry will overflow. That’s what’s happening on the bare slopes of Southern California right now."

Mudslide and Flood Threat Prompts Evacuations in Burnt Southern California as Major Storm Looms

"A Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy alerts a Kagel Canyon resident of mandatory evacuations on January 8, 2018 in the Creek Fire burn area." Credit: LA County Sheriff's Office

"A Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy alerts a Kagel Canyon resident of mandatory evacuations on January 8, 2018 in the Creek Fire burn area." Credit: LA County Sheriff's Office

Whether in Hawaii or California, post-fire erosion and flooding is a big deal. For example, the 2016 floods in Maui after an explosive fire season created massive plumes of soil, debris, trash, oil, and other pollutants along the shorelines. We are crossing our fingers that the post-fire flood threat in California this week will spare all homes and people in its path and have minimal damage throughout the watersheds.

From the Source:

"The mandatory evacuation order was issued for unincorporated parts of Santa Barbara County, Montecito, Summerland and Carpinteria, the county said. Areas along Tecolote Canyon, Eagle Canyon, Dos Pueblos Canyon, Gato Canyon, and Whittier burn areas near Goleta were also included in that order."

“This is the first significant rain the area has had in some time, it’s the first where they’ve had to be concerned about the fire scarred areas of the hills,” he added. Lucksinger said flooding and mudslides were always a concern in the foothills and mountains “when rain comes down quickly in a short amount of time like that.”

"Dodged a Bullet": Illegal Aerials Lit Up Much of Oahu On New Year's

Credit: Hawaii News Now

Credit: Hawaii News Now

Every year, fireworks pose a danger to safety due to injury and from fires, including brushfires. Thanks to vigilant neighbors, a little bit of luck, and hard-working first responders, the worst case scenario was averted. A brushfire did threaten homes in Hawaii Kai. HWMO is working closely with residents in Kamilonui-Mariner's Cove to help them become the first Firewise Community on Oahu. 

From the Source:

"We dodged a bullet," said Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Scot Seguirant, in a news conference on Monday.

"Last year was a bad year. This year has been better, but how many fires were not reported is another question. And then quick actions from neighbors, putting out fires ... is what really saved us this year."

"A brush fire in Hawaii Kai was put out quickly, but at one point, the flames were inching closer to homes at the top of a ridge."

Deadly California Wildfire Could Become Largest in State's History

"Firefighters from the Governors Office of Emergency Services monitor the advance of smoke and flames from the Thomas Fire, Dec. 16, 2017 in Montecito, Calif." Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

"Firefighters from the Governors Office of Emergency Services monitor the advance of smoke and flames from the Thomas Fire, Dec. 16, 2017 in Montecito, Calif." Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

From the Source:

"The Thomas fire, which has killed two and destroyed more than a thousand structures in Southern California, could become the largest wildfire in the state’s history as the monster inferno continues to grow.

The Thomas fire has burned steadily since Dec. 4, and authorities say it could take weeks to fully contain. It has reduced at least 1,026 homes and business to ashes and damaged more than 240 others.

It was 45 percent contained as of Sunday evening as about 8,530 firefighters from about 100 different crews battled the blaze. Officials estimated that firefighters won’t achieve full containment until Jan 7."

California Firefighter Dies Fighting Massive Thomas Fire

"The Thomas Fire burns on a bluff in La Conchita, California, on Dec. 7, 2017. Many evacuation holdouts were forced to flee the small seaside town as the flames approached.  Strong Santa Ana winds rapidly spread multiple wildfires across tens of thousands of acres, destroying hundreds of homes and other buildings. CREDIT: Mario Tama / Getty Images

"The Thomas Fire burns on a bluff in La Conchita, California, on Dec. 7, 2017. Many evacuation holdouts were forced to flee the small seaside town as the flames approached. 

Strong Santa Ana winds rapidly spread multiple wildfires across tens of thousands of acres, destroying hundreds of homes and other buildings.

CREDIT: Mario Tama / Getty Images

Our hearts are heavy today with the sad news of the death of a Calfire firefighter who bravely fought alongside many other firefighters on the massive Thomas Fire burning in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim's loved ones. 

From the Source:

"A firefighter died Thursday while working a colossal wildfire burning in coastal mountains northwest of Los Angeles that has become the fourth largest in California history.

CBS Los Angeles reports the victim was a Cal Fire engineer who worked for the department's San Diego unit. The death, but no details of the circumstances, was confirmed in a statement from Chief Ken Pimlott of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection."

New Haihai Fire Station Blessed

"Dennis Onishi and Harry Kim untie the maile lei." Credit: Big Island Video News

"Dennis Onishi and Harry Kim untie the maile lei." Credit: Big Island Video News

Congratulations to Hawaii Fire Department, the Hilo community, Mayor Kim and the County Council, and all others involved in the building and blessing of the new Haihai Fire Station. As HFD Chief Darren Rosario, also a member of HWMO's Technical Advisory Committee, mentioned in his speech, please do stop by the new station if you are in the area. Firefighters are willing and able to answer your questions on fire safety, or just get to know who they are serving. 

From the Source:

The Hawaii County Fire Department actually began operating out of the new facility at the start of November, but the event on December 14 was the community’s chance to celebrate the finished project. The new fire station allows the firefighters to relocate from their outdated facility on Kawailani Street.

Every Second Counts! Home Escape Planning Is Critical in a Fire Situation

MFD fire safety presentation. Credit: Lahaina News

MFD fire safety presentation. Credit: Lahaina News

Important tips on evacuation planning from our friends at Maui Fire Department. You can find more tips and evacuation planning templates in the Ready, Set, Go! Wildland Fire Action Guide - Hawaii version.

From the Source: 

"Developing and practicing a home escape plan is like building muscle memory," said Jeffrey Murray, fire chief of the Maui Fire Department.

"That pre-planning is what everyone will draw upon to snap into action and escape as quickly as possible in the event of a fire."

"In support of Fire Prevention Week, all Maui County households are encouraged to develop a plan together and practice it. A home escape plan includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and near all sleeping areas.

It also includes two ways out of every room - usually a door and a window - with a clear path to an outside meeting place (such as a tree, light pole or mailbox) that's a safe distance from the home."

The Power of Insurance Incentives to Promote Fire Adapted Communities

"Where wildfire meets homes, the fire suppression response may protect homes but distort the full cost of insuring the homes from wildfires. Waldo Canyon Fire, Colorado Springs, CO, 2012." Credit: USFS

"Where wildfire meets homes, the fire suppression response may protect homes but distort the full cost of insuring the homes from wildfires. Waldo Canyon Fire, Colorado Springs, CO, 2012." Credit: USFS

HWMO is exploring creative ways to motivate people and communities to action. One technique that some states are using is the power of the economic incentives. Check out this article written by a friend of the organization, Mr. Rob Galbraith, Director of Property Underwriting at USAA. We have opened discussions with the Division of Insurance and some companies such as USAA to offer insurance reduction rates for Firewise Communities. 

From the Source:

"I have attended several community meetings — co-presenting with local fire departments to encourage homeowners to take proactive steps to mitigate their exposure to the threat of loss from wildland fire. And the impact of combining intangible benefits (e.g., life safety, avoidance of property and financial loss) with tangible benefits (e.g., discount on homeowners insurance, recognition as a Firewise community through signage) can be a powerful motivator."

"Requirements by insurance carriers for property owners to take steps to mitigate their exposure to property losses from wildland fire can be a powerful motivator — when those requirements adhere to scientifically-based principles. Government entities may have similar levers in the form of citations, fines, fees, tax withholdings, etc. when property owners are not in accordance with local regulations and ordinances, but these generally are not as impactful as an insurance carrier’s refusal to continue coverage.

However, at times the requirements from insurance carriers can be counter-productive as they impose unreasonable or unnecessary burdens on homeowners. For example, a carrier may require 100 feet of clear cutting to create defensible space around the home, but the property line to the adjacent parcel may be within 100 ft. Removing vegetation may also run afoul of local ordinances on the size and types of trees that may be cut down. Finally, these requirements from carriers may not be performed reasonably in the amount of time given and may give the homeowner misleading direction on the prioritization of mitigation actions, namely starting 0-5 feet from the structure and moving outward over time."

Firefighters Douse Brush Fire That Came Close to Makakilo Homes

Photo credit: KFVE

Photo credit: KFVE

Another close-call with brushfires in Makakilo -- this time the fire came within 30 feet of homes on Friday afternoon, burning three to five acres. 

From the Source:

"A fast-moving brush fire in Makakilo came close to homes Friday, but was doused quickly.

The blaze neared homes Friday afternoon, at times coming within 30 feet.

The fire started about 2:50 p.m., and was under control by about 3:45 p.m.

An estimated three to five acres were burned, and a shed also caught on fire."

58 Acres Scorched in Paʻia and Haʻiku Brush Fires

Photo Credit: Anna Kim / Maui Now

Photo Credit: Anna Kim / Maui Now

With very strong trade winds blowing and continuing dry conditions, be on the Wildfire Lookout! and evacuate early. Six homes were evacuated on the makai side of Hana Highway on Maui for a fire that came to within five feet of the homes. 

"Forty-two minutes after the Pāʻia fire was extinguished, crews responded to reports of a brush fire makai-side of Hāna Highway at the Ha‘ikū Road intersection at 6:32 p.m. When Pāʻia crews arrived 10 minutes later, a half acre of land was already scorched.

'Crews had just left the scene of the Pāʻia fire and didn’t even make it back to the station when they responded to the second fire,' Chief Taomoto said."

'When you’re in an open field with nothing going on, you start eliminating the potential igniting sources—structures and power lines, human habitation—and you come up with nothing, so there is the potential human cause and someone fled the scene,' he said.

Chief Taomoto said if the conditions are right and multiple factors line-up perfectly something as simple as a cigarette thrown out of a window could start some of the roadside fires. However, he said it’s suspicious when there are multiple fires within a small area, he used the three small grass fires off the Pali last month as an example."

VIDEO: Officials Warn of Fire Danger in Dry Season

Big Island Video News screen capture from October 19, 2017 video.

Big Island Video News screen capture from October 19, 2017 video.

Courtesy of the 40+ partners including HWMO issuing a "Wildfire LOOKOUT!" advisory. 

From the Source:

"State officials are warning that Hawai‘i fire danger is currently high across the state and will remain so until normal winter precipitation sets in.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources says the state has experienced persistent and worsening drought conditions since July, with wildfire activity ramping up over the last month. 'Unlike most of the U.S., fire season in Hawai‘i is year around,' DLNR wrote in a media advisory. 'Residents and visitors are urged to prevent fire ignitions from starting: be careful with equipment that may spark, do not park or idle cars on dry grass, and completely extinguish all campfires.'

'Also, a wildfire can quickly turn into a subdivision fire, such as the recent and devastating wildfires in California and other states,' DLNR stated. 'This can happen in Hawai‘i too, but residents can take action to protect their homes and prevent the spread of fire.'”

City Says Improper Charcoal Dumping Burned Shower Tree

Credit: KITV

Credit: KITV

From the Source:

"The city Department of Parks and Recreation is asking the public to be more careful when using fire. It says the dumping of charcoals at the base of a shower tree at a Windward Oahu beach park and campground resulted the tree’s destruction last weekend."

"The Department of Parks and Recreation would like to take this opportunity to remind park users and campers to properly dispose of their charcoal, burnt wood, or other organic fire-fueling material in the designated charcoal disposal bins," urges the city via a press release.

"Disposing of these materials in regular trash cans, near trees, on other plant life, or on the beach, poses a safety and environmental hazard. The coals may appear to be extinguished but can be reignited. This is especially true if you bury used coals in the sand. The sand insulates the heat of the embers and can keep them hot for hours. This poses a severe safety hazard to other beachgoers who cannot see the danger just beneath the surface. In the past, this has resulted in significant injury."

HWMO Highlight on the Conversation

Credit: National Park Service

Credit: National Park Service

Thank you to The Conversation on HPR for highlighting the wildfire issue and having HWMO's Elizabeth Pickett as a guest on the show! Peak wildfire season is not over (and in Hawaii, fire season is all year long) so stay vigilant, have a plan, and evacuate early.

From the Source:

"Hawaii has its own problem with wildfires, and each summer seems to bring a rash of fires that are mostly caused by people – some accidental, many of them deliberate. The Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization compiles the available data about each year’s wildfires."

Amid The Horrors Of Wildfire, A Tale Of Survival And Singed Whiskers

NPR Article_10_17_17_image31-8f82cf86d4515949ba78a675845ff4fe6bd9bcdd-s800-c85.jpg

It has been heavy news, one after another, with the California wildfires alone (not to mention the numerous destructive hurricanes this summer). We thought we'd share this incredible story of survival (of both humans and pets) for a glimpse at the silver-linings that can exist during such tremendous disasters. Added bonus, the story reveals how strategic, controlled grazing can literally save lives!

From the Source:

"What they discovered was both the worst and the best of outcomes. The house was gone, the trucks were gone, everything was ash and gray.

Except for the goats.

All eight of them had survived. Odin did, too, limping, with singed fur and melted whiskers. But his tail still wagged. Hendel thinks he knows what happened."

"As he shuffled through some things — watching objects disintegrate into ash as he poked at them — he heard the noise. It was unmistakable: a bleat that could only come from a goat. There, standing in the drive were Lucy and Ethel, singed and hungry and fine. Somebody, probably the firefighters, had even left them a bowl of water. He has no real idea how they survived, only a theory.

'All I can think is the pasture was just low grass and so the fire couldn't sustain itself there.'"

Portugal Fires: Three Days of National Mourning for Wildfire Victims

"Fires continued into Monday night, despite rainfall in some affected areas." Credit: AFP

"Fires continued into Monday night, despite rainfall in some affected areas." Credit: AFP

As we mourn the losses from the California wildfires, we also send our deepest sympathies to those who have lost loved ones in the Portugal and Spain fires. 

From the Source:

"At least 41 people died after hundreds of fires spread across central and northern areas on Sunday and Monday.

They started in dry conditions and were fanned by strong Atlantic winds from Hurricane Ophelia.

Across the border in Spain, at least four people died in wildfires in the Galicia region.

However, a one-month-old baby who was believed to have died in Portugal's Tabua area has been found alive, the civil protection authorities told the Portuguese press."

"Residents said they had little time to react. 'The fire came at the foot of the village and spread at an incredible rate,' Jose Morais, who lives in Vouzela in the Viseu region, told AFP news agency.

'It felt like the end of the world. Everyone fled.'"

Crews Respond to Flare Up of Fire West of Omaopio and Pulehu Road

Area where fire occurred - west of Omaopio and Pulehu Road junction.

Area where fire occurred - west of Omaopio and Pulehu Road junction.

From the Source:

"A series of brush fires that kept firefighters busy last week rekindled Sunday night, forcing crews to return to the area west of the Omaopio and Pulehu road junction, fire officials said.

The flare-up at about 8:30 p.m. occurred inside the perimeter of one of three fires, about a half-mile to a mile apart, that began Oct. 9, Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto said."

"Although the fire was declared 100 percent contained Thursday afternoon and has not spread beyond firebreaks carved out by bulldozers, large areas of unburned fuel remain inside containment lines, Taomoto said. That is where flare-ups have been occurring.

In addition, difficult-to-reach areas with large kiawe trees and heavy brush on the mauka edges were making it challenging for firefighters to fully extinguish the fires, Taomoto said."

Officials: Kihei Brush Fires Appear Suspicious

Credit: Asa Ellison / KFVE

Credit: Asa Ellison / KFVE

From the Source:

"The blazes near Kihei started in four places — and miles apart. They've burned about 100 acres.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the blazes were about 75 percent contained.

Officials said the fires appeared to be suspicious, but a cause has not yet been determined."