Heard Around Hawaii

Five Hawaii Firewise Communities Awarded 2019 Wildfire Prep Day Grants


We are so proud to announce that this year, Hawaiʻi has the most awardees it has ever had for the nationwide #WildfirePrepDay contest. 

The awardees are:
Waikiʻi Ranch
Waikoloa Village
Puʻukapu Pastoral

Check out the 150 awardees across the U.S. who received generous support from State Farm through NFPA.

Even without a State Farm grant, there is a lot you can do in your community for Wildfire Prep Day on May 4. Need project ideas? Click the button below, courtesy of our friends from Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.

HFD Battles Brush Fire at Hokulia Golf Course

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 9.40.25 AM.png

From the Source:

The Hawaii‘i Fire department arrived at the scene of a half-acre brush fire at 5:07 p.m. on Monday, March 11, 2019, between two fairways at the Hokulia Golf Course near the bottom of Halekii Street.

The area contained a heavy fuel load, including keawe, haole koa and pili grass. Access was challenging access due to archeological and cultural sites.

Firefighters were unable to cut a firebreak across bottom of fire due to numerous archeological and historical sites.

El Nino Conditions Played a Part In the Raging Brush Fires Over the Weekend

Credit: KITV4 News

Credit: KITV4 News

El Nino means more wildfires. More wildfires means more impacts. We must all be ready for a busy fire year. Check out Wildfire LOOKOUT for wildfire prevention and preparedness resources at your fingertips.

From the Source:

"With El Niño comes drought usually and so that dries out all the vegetation and we can get an out of season active period in terms of brush fires,"  Kevin Kodama, hydrologist, National Weather Service, said. "For the Leeward areas, you're really getting out of a chance of any sort of meaningful rainfall for that side of the island anyway. It's the driest time of the year."

"The big risk factors are sort of all of these unused former agricultural lands but all this grass," Clay Trauernicht, wildland fire specialist, University of Hawaii, said. 

"It should allow folks in those communities to start to get ready and realize the threat is there and they can do something about it now to minimize the impact,"  Captain Scot Seguirant, HFD, said. 

To help prevent wildfires, Seguirant recommends residents cut their brush and vegetation to at least 30 feet away from their homes. 

500 Acre Brush Fire Behind Nanakuli Sack N Save 100% Contained

Fire behind Sack N Save in Nanakuli. Credit: KITV4

Fire behind Sack N Save in Nanakuli. Credit: KITV4

From the Source:

Honolulu firefighters say a West Oahu brush fire that burned since pre-dawn on Sunday is 100 percent contained. The fire department says 500 acres burned, and hot spots and smoke are coming from burned areas. 

HFD says strong gusty wind conditions, accessibility, and terrain are challenging fire fighters efforts. In Nanakuli, the fire came as close as 100 feet to some homes.

HFD says the fire originated in Nanakuli Valley and branched off into Waianae Valley. Throughout the day, it was an active fire that firefighters battled on multiple fronts, and with the help of the federal fire department.  

750 Trees Find New Homes in the Mountains of Waianae

“Dozens of volunteers got down and dirty to plant roughly 750 trees on Oahu’s west side.” Credit: DLNR.

“Dozens of volunteers got down and dirty to plant roughly 750 trees on Oahu’s west side.” Credit: DLNR.

Important work being done by our partners from the Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership and DLNR to reforest Waianae Kai State Forest Reserve, which will create a more resilient landscape and reduce the wildfire risk in the area. If you want to get involved with the planting events, you’re asked to contact coordinator Yumi Miyata at (808) 227-9545, or wmwpcoordinator@gmail.com.

From the Source:

“The Enterprise Urban Tree Initiative brings our employees together to volunteer in communities like Waianae that have been devastated by natural disasters, such as wildfires,” said Chris Sbarbaro, Enterprise Hawaii Vice President of External Affairs. “We support the Arbor Day Foundation and its partners in their efforts to build strong communities from the ground up and create a sustainable and inclusive future for all.”

The need to restore Oahu’s west side comes as a dry spell started to hit Nanakuli, and is likely to move toward Waianae during the normally hot and dry summer months.

“Unfortunately, wildfires have become more frequent in Waianae. The cycle of infrequent, heavy rain followed by dry, hot and windy weather creates the perfect conditions for fast-moving, intense fire. A recent fire in August 2018 burned more than 1,500 acres of the forest reserve, threatening native forests important for water recharge,” said Yumi Miyata, Waiʻanae Mountains Watershed Partnership Coordinator and Chair of Hawaii Association of Watershed Partnerships.

Kokee Road Fires Under Investigation

Screen Shot 2019-03-12 at 8.19.58 AM.png

From the Source:

Firefighters responded to multiple brush fires that broke out along Koke‘e Road throughout the day Sunday, starting in the early morning hours and ending in the evening.

There were no reports of injuries or structural damage related to the fires.

Roughly 50 acres were burned before the blaze could be contained by emergency crews around 5:20 p.m. Fire crews ran out of water in their engines throughout the course of the day fighting the fire and were forced to reload on several occasions.

Anyone with information is urged to call the KPD at 241-1711.

Police Identify Suspect Arrested in Connection with Maili Wildfires in West Oahu

Footage from Senator Maile Shimabukuro broadcasted on Hawaii News Now.

Footage from Senator Maile Shimabukuro broadcasted on Hawaii News Now.

Although 75% of wildfires are deemed accidental and thus easily preventable in Hawaii, according to researcher Dr. Clay Trauernicht of UH CTAHR Cooperative Extension, we also have a challenging arson issue. It’s rare for authorities to catch arsonists and even more difficult to prosecute arsonists. In this Maili fire, a suspect was found at the scene of one of four wildfires along Farrington Highway in Maili. Thankfully no one was hurt and no homes were lost, but an investigation is underway.

From the Source:

The dramatic afternoon has Senator Shimabukuro renewing her push for a million dollars in grant money to help fight West Oahu wildfires.

“Fires have been terrorizing our community my whole life," she said. “Every summer, our mountains are on fire. I really hope that this million dollars that the community is requesting for the Waianae Kai Wildfire Preparedness Plan can be granted by the legislature."

Firefighters Extinguished 4 Brush Fires in Kekaha

Screen Shot 2019-03-07 at 9.02.11 AM.png

From the Source:

Firefighters extinguished four brush fires in Kekaha, in an area about 25 feet by 400 feet, near the vicinity of Kikiaola Harbor in Kekaha on Sunday.

Firefighters from the Waimea and Hanapepe fire stations responded to the brush fires that were reported at 2:40 p.m.

Hanapepe fire station responded to assist with two brush fires closer to the harbor entrance. 

Restoration of Forest Key to Fire Control, Expert Says

Dr. Trauernicht gives background on the wildfire issue in Maui and across the state. Credit: The Maui News

Dr. Trauernicht gives background on the wildfire issue in Maui and across the state. Credit: The Maui News

Great article on the wildfire issue in Hawaii based on a recent talk by our close partner, Dr. Clay Trauernicht of University of Hawaii CTAHR Cooperative Extension / Pacific Fire Exchange. Also, important identification of the need for more funding for forest restoration and fire prevention by another close partner of ours, Chris Brosius, program manager of the West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership.

From the Source:

The causes of most fires are unknown. Out of 12,000 recorded incidents statewide from 2000 to 2011, only 882, or about 7 percent, had a determined cause. Of those, 72 percent were accidental, which also means they’re preventable, Trauernicht said at Wednesday’s meeting in the Pacific Whale Foundation’s classrooms in Maalaea. That’s why part of the solution is public education on the risks of fire and how to avoid sparking a fire.

That’s why it’s important to find ways to change the landscape to less sensitive and less flammable vegetation, he said. Statewide, non-native grasses and shrubland cover 25 percent of the total land; in Maui County, it’s 36 percent.

“Rather than trying to weed wack or spray to kill the grass, maybe you should think about a more permanent strategy, like planting trees to shade those grasses out,” Trauernicht said. “In other words, converting that vegetation to something that’s less likely to burn.”

“We can really only do two things,” Trauernicht explained. “We can target ignitions . . . and the only thing we have direct control over is the vegetation.”

“A lot of people think about jumping right into fuels management,” he said. “One of the big things is just having access and safer conditions and water for firefighters. So I think some of the more immediate things is ensuring they have the safest conditions.”

Loloa Street Wildfire in North Kona Forces Evacuations

Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 11.42.19 AM.png

Fortunately the fire did not do damage or cause any casualties — with the winds blowing from the Kona Low storm, it could have been a lot worse.

From the Source:

Hawaii County Police say a fire is forcing the evacuation of North Kona Sunday.

Evacuation orders were announced shortly after noon.

Police say Loloa Street is closed in Kalaoa as crews respond, and officials suggest that drivers use alternate routes.

Mauna Kea Fire Burning 110+ Acres Caused By Camp Fire

“A brush fire continues to burn off Daniel K. Inouye Highway Wednesday near near the Maunakea Access Road.” (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

“A brush fire continues to burn off Daniel K. Inouye Highway Wednesday near near the Maunakea Access Road.” (HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald)

From the Source:

The fire, which broke out about 10 a.m. Tuesday in the northeastern corner of Pohakuloa Training Area, had burned about 110 acres of state and U.S. Army land as of Wednesday afternoon. It’s burning on the slopes of Mauna Kea, about 2 miles north of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and on the Kona side of Mauna Kea Access Road, said PTA spokesman Mike Donnelly.

“In the last 24 hours, these guys have done a remarkable job containing this fire given the brutal terrain that they’re in,” Donnelly said after observing the fire from a helicopter. The blaze is about 70 percent contained.

Apply for a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Grant by March 1!

#WildfirePrepDay 2018 at Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove in Hawaii Kai, Oahu. They received a State Farm grant for their vegetation reduction efforts and were able to go the extra mile because of it! Credit: Livable Hawaii Kai Hui

#WildfirePrepDay 2018 at Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove in Hawaii Kai, Oahu. They received a State Farm grant for their vegetation reduction efforts and were able to go the extra mile because of it! Credit: Livable Hawaii Kai Hui

From our partners at NFPA:

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day this year it is May 4, 2019. NFPA® will again be offering project funding awards to 150 communities across the United States. Each of these $500 awards provided with past generous support from State Farm, can be used to complete a wildfire safety project where you live.

The application period for one of one hundred fifty $500 awards opens January 7 at 8 AM EST, and will close March 1 at midnight EST.  Winners will be announced March 22. 

Study Links Climate Change to Increased Risk of Hawaii Wildfires

Credit: Dr. Clay Trauernicht

Credit: Dr. Clay Trauernicht

The need for more wildfire mitigation across Hawaii’s landscapes to protect natural resources and communities will only be greater with climate change. The time is now to take action!

This from our close colleague, a PFX coordinator, and a HWMO technical advisor, Dr. Clay Trauernicht, Wildfire Extension Specialist at University of Hawaii Manoa CTAHR.

From the Source:

The first study linking climate change to an increased probability of wildfires in Hawaiʻi also weighs the increased risks facing tropical regions around the world, according to University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa researcher Clay Trauernicht.

Based on changes in rainfall and temperature due to climate change, the annual risk of wildfire could increase up to 375 percent for parts of Hawaiʻi Island, the analysis shows.

Lead researcher Trauernicht, of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, tracked the “footprints” of historical fires on Hawaiʻi Island. His research shows how vegetation, ignition frequency and climate contribute to wildfire probability.

“The increased risk of fire stems from drought conditions due to low rainfall, as well as increased rainfall in the months prior to drought,” Trauernicht said. “This is because wet conditions mean greater growth of non-native grasses, which are the greatest fuel for wildfires in Hawaiʻi. Wet summer weather, combined with dry winter conditions, is characteristic of El Niño conditions and this winter looks likely to be another El Niño.”

Hotel Wailea Luxury Resort Evacuated Due to Fast-Moving Wildfire

Brush fire that forced evacuation of luxury Maui resort is seen in background on January 6, 2019

Brush fire that forced evacuation of luxury Maui resort is seen in background on January 6, 2019

From the Source:

A luxury Maui resort was evacuated Sunday night as a fast-moving brush fire swept through Wailea, CBS Hawaii affiliate KGMB reports.  Guests and employees at Hotel Wailea, a five-star resort, were evacuated at about 8:30 p.m., almost two hours after the wind-whipped blaze started.

Hotel Wailea shut off propane tanks and police were on the property knocking on doors telling people to leave.

The American Red Cross of Hawaii opened an emergency shelter at a local community center to assist affected visitors and residents.

Four Acre Alan Davis Beach Fire in East Oahu Extinguished

“Firefighters working to put out a brush fire on Oahu’s east side.” Credit: Hawaii News Now

“Firefighters working to put out a brush fire on Oahu’s east side.” Credit: Hawaii News Now

The area of the fire is known for remnant native trees and plants that are a vibrant sight to see in Kaiwi. You can volunteer to be a part of the restoration efforts of this remarkable coastline here: http://kaiwicoast.org/volunteer.htm

From the Source:

Honolulu firefighters responded to a brush fire near Alan Davis Beach on Saturday.

Due to muddy off road conditions, crews were unable to access the fire with fire trucks.

“Personnel hiked in and initiated a ground fire attack in coordination with water drops from Air 1,” Fire Capt. Scot Seguirant said in a press release. “The Honolulu Police Department assisted with stopping beach goers from entering the burn area while they hiked to the beach from the lighthouse parking lot.”

Olowalu Mauka Fire Burns Over 75 Acres

Images from the fire on Saturday. Credit: Maui Fire Department

Images from the fire on Saturday. Credit: Maui Fire Department

From the Source:

Maui firefighters are working to extinguish a brush fire that ignited early Saturday morning.

Maui fire officials said they were called out to the fire around 2 a.m. It started in the upper hills of Olowalu above a paintball field and tomato farm.

When MFD arrived on scene, the fire was about two acres in size and growing rapidly due to high winds. Additional resources were called in.

As of 12:15 p.m., the flames were 50 percent contained and 75 acres were blackened. Some 40 firefighters and crew members were still battling the flames.

El Nino Impacts Likely Through Winter, Into Spring - Higher Potential for Large Wildfires in Hawaii

“A Hawaii County firefighter monitors a brush fire.” (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

“A Hawaii County firefighter monitors a brush fire.” (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

El Nino means a higher potential for large fires throughout much of Hawaii. Be prepared by going through the Ready Set Go! Action Guide and WildfireLOOKOUT! materials — there are many ways to get involved and Take Action.

From the Source:

El Nino has more than one impact on water. It doesn’t just heat it up, it changes how much falls from the sky and when.

Matthew Foster, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said NWS has forecast a 90 percent chance of El Nino in the winter and a 60 percent chance it persists into the spring.

According to North Ops Predictive Services, rainfall totals are projected below normal levels from December through the spring months assuming an El Nino takes hold and hangs around.

Because of this, and despite rainfall through last summer and fall that left green grass crop in several areas across the state, large fire potential is expected to increase to above normal levels from January to March.

“December was still neutral conditions,” Foster said, “(But) it would be expected drier than normal over the next few months.”

New Year’s Eve and Day were jointly characterized by three separate blazes in West Hawaii alone, two in the area of Waikoloa Village and one above Hawaiian Homes in Kawaihae.

50 Acre Fire Near Kona Costco Extinguished

Click above for video from KHON2

Click above for video from KHON2

From the Source:

A fast-moving brush fire in Kona scorched about 50 acres before firefighters were able to get it under control on Friday afternoon.

The blaze started about 3 p.m. near Hinalani Street and Ane Keohokalole Highway.

The Ulu Wini housing complex and several businesses, including Costco, are close to where the blaze and so an emergency shelter was opened for any displaced residents.

Wildland Fire Danger Elevated in Hawaii with Drought in Forecast

Hualalai and Puu Anahulu Fuels.JPG

From the Source:

For Hawaii, El Nino often translates into summer moisture followed by winter drought.

Drought conditions will be increasingly prevalent in the coming decades, said Clay Trauernicht, UH-Manoa wildland fire specialist and author of a study that examined how climate change will affect wildfires in Hawaii and tropical areas around the world.

The paper, published in Science of the Total Environment, not only discusses the effects of climate change on fire, but demonstrates how tracking rainfall patterns year to year can help better forecast near-term wildfire risk, including the danger that excess rainfall in advance of drought can pose to Hawaii’s vulnerable grasslands.

As for the current fire danger, Trauernicht said environmental conditions are quite similar right now to the period right before August, when a string of storms built up the fuel load and the drying islands were struck by a rash of wildland fires that burned nearly 30,000 acres.

Elizabeth Pickett, executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, said most people don’t realize the scale of Hawaii’s wildfire problem. Each year about 0.5 percent of Hawaii’s total land area burns, which is equal to or greater than the proportion burned of any other U.S. state, she said.

Pickett said 98 percent of wildfires are started by humans, most of them accidentally. People have to accept that we live in a fire-prone state and be extra careful to prevent fires, she said.

One common way to start a wildfire is from a spark or hot components of a motor vehicle. It’s the primary reason why Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park closed Mauna Loa Road.

“By reducing the number of vehicles in high-risk areas, the park can mitigate the potential for a catastrophic event,” the park said.

Pickett said there are a number of simple things folks can do: Park cars on pavement and never on dry grass. Keep yards maintained and free of debris. Be careful with equipment that could spark. Practice family emergency plans.

More tips can be found at HawaiiWildfire.org/lookout.

Lahainaluna High School Post-Fire Recovery (VIDEO)

Screenshot from the Lahainaluna Digital Media video.

Screenshot from the Lahainaluna Digital Media video.

Lahaina’s community came out in droves to help Lahainaluna High School recover from the August brushfire during Hurricane Lane. This video from Lahianaluna Digital Media will brighten your day by showing you what a community-wide resilient spirit looks like.