Heard Around Hawaii

Hawaii Is Losing As Much Of Its Land To Wildfires As Any Other State

Wildfire researcher Clay Trauernicht says the African grasses and shrubs that have taken over Hawaii’s ag lands need to be managed to control wildfires.

Wildfire researcher Clay Trauernicht says the African grasses and shrubs that have taken over Hawaii’s ag lands need to be managed to control wildfires.

This Honolulu Civil Beat Article does a wonderful job of describing the wildfire situation Hawaii is currently facing. With as high of a percentage of land that is burned every year as the notoriously fire-prone western United States, Hawaii has a big issue on its hands.

This Civil Beat article goes into the environmental conditions that have resulted in such a dramatic increase in wildfires throughout the state, as well as the economic and historical reasons that have helped cause these current conditions to exist. Hawaii’s past has consisted of large-scale land alterations, heavy impacts on fragile endemic and native species with the introduction of invasive competition into the ecosystem, as well as dramatic increases in human population over time. All of these factors, along with many other environmental variables currently in flux with the rapidly changing climate play a part in Hawaii’s fire situation. It is becoming increasingly imperative that fire fuel loads are managed throughout the state, and that we all share the knowledge of how to live alongside this increasing threat of wildfire.

From the article:

“University of Hawaii professor Camilo Mora recently reviewed 12,000 scientific studies and found at least 30 different types of impacts of climate change related to fires, hitting health, food, water, infrastructure, security and the economy. Wildfires affect mental health and spread disease, degrade air quality and harm coral reefs, threaten freshwater supplies and deter tourists”

-Civil Beat Author Nathan Eagle

We recommend reading the Honolulu Civil Beat Article to take a deeper dive on all of these dimensions to wildfire in Hawaiʻi.



Maui Currently Experiencing a Huge 3000 Acre Fire Still Un-contained

The fire currently under way on Maui is going to continue through the night as firefighting crews remain cautious while fighting the 3000 acre blaze. With a number of road closures and evacuations that have been underway today, there have been many people and animals displaced due to this fast moving brush fire. We hope that the Maui County Fire Department stays safe as they attempt to control and extinguish the brushfire.

Motorists left Kihei on Thursday evening through charred Maui Veterans Highway amid a rapidly moving brush fire that consumed 3,000 acres as it swept from Kahului toward north Kihei due to high winds.

Access into Kihei on the highway was reopened at 9:30 p.m. after being closed in the afternoon. The county said that vehicles were being escorted through North Kihei Road. 

A Kihei shelter reached capacity at 450 people. A mandatory evacuation of north Kihei residents was lifted at about 9:30 p.m.

All ground firefighter crews were set to work through the night to try to contain the fire, which remained a “very dynamic situation,” according to Maui Fire Department Fire Services Chief Rylan Yatsushiro late Thursday night.

Road closures:

• North Kihei Road (vehicles being escorted).

• Hansen Road.

Road reopenings:

• Kuihelani Highway.

• All lanes of Maui Veterans Highway.

• Waiko Road.

(click on the Maui News link above to learn more about shelters that are open and/or at capacity)

KHON2 News:

The Maui Humane Society was one of the first places to be evacuated earlier Thursday afternoon.

“It was black smoke, and it was pretty thick. We could absolutely see the flames. They were close,” said Nancy Willis with the Maui Humane Society.

They moved over 200 animals, with the help of residents and other shelters. They set up at Maui High School where many workers and volunteers are taking care of the animals.

“We’re working on a generator, lights and cots. Lots of people are helping us. We’ve put that plan into place, just in case,” said Willis.

Over 600 people have checked into shelters at the Kihei Community Center, Kamalii Elementary School and War Memorial Gymnasium as of 9 p.m. Thursday night. 


From CNN:

As darkness set in, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino said firefighters would not bring it under control overnight.

"We can't fight the fire tonight. We're not going to send any firefighters into harm's way," Victorino said Thursday.


DLNR: Fire Season in Hawai‘i is Now Year-Round

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Wildfires are much less contained to a specific time of the year than they have been in the past. Instead fire has become a year-round occurrence that could present itself at almost anytime. Be wary of activities that could lead to sparking fire as Hawaii enters the time of year that is still more at risk for wildfires. While there have been plenty of recent rain events throughout the state, it is very likely that severe drought season is on the horizon, with fire fuel loads now in higher supply. It takes only one spark.

Ken Pimlott, retired chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spoke recently in Honolulu. He agreed that pre-fire vegetation management work is a necessary action to reducing the risks of fire as we enter this more fire-prone season.

Ken Pimlott - retired chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection speaks in Honolulu about the current fire risks we are facing.

Ken Pimlott - retired chief of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection speaks in Honolulu about the current fire risks we are facing.



Check out this very informative article by Big Island Now to get the scoop on what the technical specialists have been discussing in the realm of wildfire.

From the Source at Big Island Now:

Michael Walker, state fire forester for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), repeated a common refrain, “Like everywhere else in the west, Hawai‘i does not have a specific fire season. It used to be we geared up for battling wildland fires in late summer and early fall, as those times historically were the most common times for big fires. Driven by our changing, warming climate, fire season here in the islands, like in all western states on the mainland, is now year around.”

Clay Trauernicht, a wildland fire specialist with the University of Hawai‘i’s Cooperative Extension Service traces how the potential for wildland fire has steadily grown over the years.

Trauernicht explained, “Agriculture and ranching declines have left us with about one million acres of non-native grasses and shrubs statewide. This vegetation is incredibly prone to burning during drought. Clearing and cleaning up the brush on your property is critical for the safety of your family, home, and our firefighters. On top of this, we have some of the highest frequencies of fire starts in the US. About 75% of those ignitions are accidental, which means they can be prevented. So take care with campfires, BBQs, using machinery and running cars over and around dry grass. We also see big spikes in wildfires around the holidays… ”

Hawaii County firefighters get a generous donation of a new tanker

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Hawaii County Fire Department has been gifted an amazing machine to assist in fighting fire. This “Bulldog Tanker” will help firefighters on Hawaii island traverse rugged terrain easier while suppressing fires. A wonderful gift from the Daniel Sayre Memorial Foundation.

From the source:

(HawaiiNewsNow) -Hawaii county firefighters blessed a brand new Bulldog tanker this weekend.

It’s the first of its kind in the state.

The Howe and Howe Technology Fire tanker was donated by the Daniel Sayre Memorial Foundation at a cost of $313,000.

The foundation said an anonymous donor wanted to give back after firefighters saved their home from an 18,000 acre brush fire in South Kohala.

Kauai fire crews handle brush fire that forced evacuations in Poipu

There were evacuations in Poipu yesterday afternoon due to a brushfire sparked at 3:45 pm.

From the source:

At one point, dozens of firefighters and three helicopters were working to extinguish the fire. Strong winds pushed the flames toward Koloa, though no structures were immediately threatened. With the dry brush and steady trade winds, it was enough to make residents uneasy.

“The houses down below us will be the biggest concern because a couple of years ago, a couple of houses burned from a brush fire in the same exact area coming through,” resident Aaron Hoff said.

The evacuation order for residents along Kipuka Street has since been lifted and an emergency shelter at the Koloa Neighborhood Center was set to have closed at about 9:30 p.m.  Poipu Road also reopened opened shortly after. So far there are no reports of injuries. No estimation on how many acres have burned so far.

Firefighters Battle Multiple Fires Across O'ahu Monday

Oahu brushfires this Monday are a reminder that the dry season is underway, and the risks of wildfires are real.

From the Source:

A total of seven fire units responded to the brush fire near Kamehameha Highway and Paalaa Uka Pupukea Road.

At least four brush fires were reported in a three-hour period Monday afternoon.

Community Invited to Celebration of Life for HFD Veteran Killed in Crash

“David Mahon helps his son, Dylan, use a fire hose in this family photo. (Chris Anderson/Special to West Hawaii Today)”

“David Mahon helps his son, Dylan, use a fire hose in this family photo. (Chris Anderson/Special to West Hawaii Today)”

As we mourn the tragic death of Captain David Alan Mahon we also celebrate his life and the many lives he touched. He will be missed.

We hope you can join the public celebration this weekend and help contribute to his memorial fundraiser: https://www.gofundme.com/dylan039s-future-fundin-loving-memory-of-dave-mahon

From the Source:

A public celebration of life will be held Saturday for veteran Hawaii Fire Department Capt. David Alan Mahon, 49, who was killed last week in a three-car crash on Mamalahoa Highway.

Mahon’s family and friends invite the community to a service that will open at 2 p.m. with a reception at the ballroom Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay.

40 Acre Wahiawa Brush Fire Contained After Reigniting

Credit: Star Advertiser

Credit: Star Advertiser

Just because a fire is contained, does not mean it can’t reignite. Always be vigilant of your surroundings.

From the Source:

A 40-acre brush fire in Wahiawa that reignited Saturday was called contained at 4 p.m. today, but some smoldering continued inside the perimeter.

The fire was found in the same area as a 525-acre blaze that started May 19 and was contained on Wednesday.

A change in wind direction Saturday may have set off the latest fire, according to Honolulu Fire Department officials.



As Dry Summer Season Nears, A Community is Working to Prevent Wildfires

Team Rubicon volunteers out in full force to help create a firebreak. Credit: Hawaii News Now

Team Rubicon volunteers out in full force to help create a firebreak. Credit: Hawaii News Now

As a very fitting tribute to Memorial Day, a collaboration of people including military veterans from Team Rubicon, an international veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help reintegrate veterans back into civilian life, came out in full force to create a large firebreak around Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove. The Firewise Community (the first ever on Oahu as of 2018!) of agricultural and residential lots in Hawaii Kai, has been working with HWMO for a couple of years now in an effort to create a more wildfire resilient community.

This weekend, as part of Wildfire Preparedness Day, we are seeing what it means to be fire-adapted: everyone playing a role to reduce wildfire risk. The Firewise committee consisting of local residents and farmers, Aloha Aina O Kamilo Nui, and Livable Hawaii Kai Hui organized the work days; Team Rubicon volunteers are knocking back fire fuels; neighboring landowners provided access to the land and green waste hauling services; residents are feeding volunteers; and HWMO provided a hazard assessment, continual guidance through the Firewise Communities process, and a $2,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service. We are so grateful to everyone who is helping out to make Kamilonui - Mariner’s Cove a model for community-driven wildfire protection on Oahu and for the rest of the Hawaiian Islands!

From the Source:

This Memorial Day weekend, hard-working volunteers are helping out homeowners worried about the threat of wildfires. They started creating a new firebreak on Saturday near Mariner’s Cove.

With the help of a hazard assessment from the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, the community came up with an action plan.

With moderate drought conditions across the state, wildfire experts are concerned about this summer.

“During those El Nino periods, we actually see significant increases in wildfire ignitions, but also in the amount of area that burns so we’re defintiely very worried this summer,” said Pablo Beimler, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization’s community outreach coordinator.

“It’s like black and white, like a swarm of bees come in here and sort of take over, start in five different spots and just continue on down. It’s really amazing,” said homeowner Dick Johnson.

Roads Closed in Kapolei as Firefighters Battle Brush Fire Near Renton Road

Traffic camera view of the wildfire. Credit: Hawaii News Now

Traffic camera view of the wildfire. Credit: Hawaii News Now

El Nino fire season is kicking into full gear. Be #WildfireReadyHI

From the Source:

Police officers have closed several roads in the vicinity of the intersection of Renton Road and Kapolei Parkway as firefighters battle a brush fire in the area.

The flames were first reported just after 11:30 a.m. Friday morning.

Drought Kicks In - Wildfires Already on Kauai

Waimea Canyon Fire, 2017. Credit: The Garden Island / Mark Stainaker

Waimea Canyon Fire, 2017. Credit: The Garden Island / Mark Stainaker

Drought conditions are kicking in across the Hawaiian Islands, including on Kauai, where multiple brushfires have already burned. 75% of wildfires in Hawaii occur when the drought monitor is lit up. Now is the time to be ready using your Ready, Set, Go! Wildland Fire Action Guide and Wildfire LOOKOUT! tools.

From the Source:

While recovery from April 2018 floods continues on the North Shore, the Westside is looking at severe drought conditions through September.

“We’re already seeing agriculture impacts, especially for the ranchers and we’re expecting a more active brushfire season,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hydrologist, Kevin Kodama in a Wednesday press conference.

Firefighters Struggle to Contain Large Wahiawa Fire Along Kaukonahua Road

Wahiawa Fire. Credit: KITV4

Wahiawa Fire. Credit: KITV4

From the Source:

Honolulu firefighters are working to contain a growing brush fire that has scorched roughly 375 acres in Wahiawa.

One driver reported seeing thick smoke in the area.

“I was coming down Kaukonahua Road and it was just completely smoke. You could see it coming from Wahiawa. But as you got further down, you could see it -- like plumes of smoke coming up,” Cora Pierce said as she watched the smoke billow.

HFD said windy conditions, accessibility and steep terrain have been major challenges.

Climate Change is Creating Catastrophic Wildfires

“Wildfires can have detrimental impacts on entire ecosystems.” Credit: Reuters / Rafael Marchante

“Wildfires can have detrimental impacts on entire ecosystems.” Credit: Reuters / Rafael Marchante

According to a recent study from Dr. Clay Trauernicht of UH CTAHR Cooperative Extension, parts of Hawaiʻi Island are at risk of an increase in up to 375% in annual fire risk due to climate change. Global warming is contributing to worsening wildfire conditions across the globe.

From the Source:

With little fanfare and scant news coverage, fire season 2019 has arrived. Firefighters are already containing blazes in several states, including ColoradoFlorida and Oklahoma, and seasonal outlooks suggest that significant wildfires are likely in parts of Alaska, Hawaii and the West Coast.

While forest management and human development have increased wildfire incidence and risk, climate change has exacerbated the trend of large fires and contributed to the lengthening of the fire season, in some cases making wildfires a year-round phenomenon. In the Western U.S., climate change is a major driver behind the near doubling in burned area that we've experienced over the past 35 years, and has contributed to an increase in the frequency and severity of fires, while lengthening the fire season in some regions.




Brush Fire Above Diamond Head Road Started at Homeless Camp

Credit: Hawaii News Now

Credit: Hawaii News Now

From the Source:

Honolulu firefighters extinguished a small brush fire on the mountain above Diamond Head Road early Monday.

According to HFD, the fire broke out around 2:15 a.m. near Leahi Beach Park.

Brushing Up on Wildfire Skills

Credit: Maui News

Credit: Maui News

Prescribed fire can be a great opportunity for firefighters to train for real life wildfire scenarios, while also reducing vegetation hazards prior to peak fire season. Wildfires are inevitable in dry areas, but they don’t have to catch us completely off guard and be as destructive as they have been. As Chief Eric Moller of U.S. Army-Garrison, FES says: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of protection.”

From the Source:

Maui Fire Department firefighters learn how to “fight fire with fire” while taking part in an annual wild land refresher training in a former sugar cane field several miles mauka of Puunene Tuesday morning. Assistant Chief Rick Kawasaki explained that during a windblown brush fire a “backfire,” or “burnout,” strategy can be used to widen a firebreak or eliminate combustibles next to structures to rob a raging fire of fuel when it reaches the area. “It’s less labor intensive,” Kawasaki said. “With this type of fuel, it burns so fast, we can’t keep up.” 

Live Wildfire Training on Maui Set Later This Month

View of Launiupoko where the April 17, 18, 22 training will take place.

View of Launiupoko where the April 17, 18, 22 training will take place.

Attention Maui residents and visitors:

From the Source:

The Maui Fire Department will be conducting wildland firefighting refresher training in the Launiupoko and Central Maui areas April 17 to 19 and 22 to 24 — using live fires.

Residents may see flames or smell smoke in the training areas, said acting Fire Services Chief Jeffrey T. Giesea.

The purpose of the exercises is to provide a hands-on refresher training for firefighting personnel prior to the upcoming brush fire season and to reduce the brush fire hazard in the neighboring communities by burning away fuel and creating a “safety buffer.”

Firefighters will be in a 20-acre plot about 3 miles east of the old Puunene Mill from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 19, 23, 24; and in Launiupoko on a 20-acre plot north of Haniu Street and Punakea Loop along “Lahaina Pump Ditch Two” from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 17, 18, 22.

HFD Responds to Five Brush Fire Calls in One Day on Oahu

Credit: KHON2

Credit: KHON2

"I would say that generally it's a little early in the season. But when you have the growth with the rain that we've had, as long as it's there. It's ready to burn," said Scot Seguirant, HFD.

Now is the time to prepare. Check out Wildfire LOOKOUT! for tips and tricks on preventing and preparing for wildfire.

From the Source:

Additional ways you can prevent these kinds of fire include only lighting matches or other kindling when there aren't windy conditions, and being aware of where you throw lighted cigarettes. Having a shovel, water and fire retardent in your yard for use can also be useful when a fire comes near your home. Finally you can protect your home and family by simply being aware of what may cause accidental fires and limiting risk factors such as a lighted barbeque pit or campfire.

Brush Fire in Kalihi Burns 15 Acres

Kalihi Fire, April 7, 2019. Credit: KITV4

Kalihi Fire, April 7, 2019. Credit: KITV4

”Heavy stands of iron wood (Casuarina equisetifolia) on this ridge get thick carpets of leaf litter and duff - fire will just slow churn through that stuff for hours.” - Dr. Clay Trauernicht on the Kalihi fire.

From the Source:

A brush fire in Kalihi and Fort Shafter burns about 15 acres. The flames came close to the Kamehameha IV Apartments, but did not damage any Kalihi valley homes this afternoon. 

Smoke and flames were seen above Kalena Drive as the fire broke out around noon. Fire crews battled the flames on the hillside for nearly four hours before getting it under control.

Fire Burns 3 Acres by Kapalua Airport

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From the Source:

Firefighters extinguished a brush fire that burned about 3 acres near the tree line above Kapalua Airport on Sunday afternoon, a fire official said.

The fire was reported at 3:42 p.m., with Napili and Lahaina fire crews responding along with the Fire Department’s Air One helicopter and a battalion chief.

Hawaii Wildfire Potential Above Normal April Through July

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Be vigilant - wildfire conditions are ripe for wildfire these next few months in Hawaii. Are you prepared? Check out the Ready, Set, Go! guide and Wildfire LOOKOUT! for tips on how to prepare for and prevent wildfires.

From the Source:

Hawaii and Puerto Rico will continue to see slightly elevated potential early in the outlook period until the impacts of tropical weather conditions begin to be felt.