Hawaii Island: Kau

Mauna Loa Brush Fire Doubled in Size Overnight to 1495 Acres

Firefighters battle the brush fire on Monday evening at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Credit: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Firefighters battle the brush fire on Monday evening at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Credit: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

From the Source:

The brush fire that originated at Keauhou Ranch on Hawaii island Sunday morning doubled to 1,495 acres overnight, according to National Park Service officials.

Exacerbated by dry, windy conditions, the fire is now mostly within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, and had consumed 1,250 acres of native forest on both sides of Mauna Loa Road by Tuesday morning. The blaze remains uncontained and is now less than a half-mile from the Kipuka Ki Special Ecological Area, which is home to threatened and endangered native plants and animals.

The fire — at the 4,500- to 4,800-foot elevation mark — is moving west towards Kapapala Ranch. No homes or structures are currently threatened, and it poses no threat to the Volcano community at this time.

Brush Fire in Kau Grows to 700 Acres

NASA FIRMS map  showing the satellite pickup of hotspots from the fire so far. Orange and red signify different satellites. 

NASA FIRMS map showing the satellite pickup of hotspots from the fire so far. Orange and red signify different satellites. 

A brushfire that started Sunday morning on Keauhou Ranch crossed Mauna Loa Road into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and is moving west. National Park Service (NPS) firefighters and the County of Hawaii are working to control the blaze, now estimated to be around 700 acres.

The fire is moving west towards Kapāpala Ranch, and is not contained at this time. County of Hawaii fire personnel are also working to suppress the fire outside the park, which was reportedly sparked during repairs to a bulldozer. Firefighters from the Division of Forestry and Wildlife and volunteer firefighters from Volcano also responded.

Strong winds and dry conditions at the fire’s 4,800-foot elevation are making it a challenge to control. No homes or structures are currently at risk, but the fire has scorched native koa forest, which provides important habitat to endangered and endemic species like the Hawaiian hawk and Hawaiian bat.

Brush Fire Scorches 122 Acres Near Punaluu Beach Park in Kau

A brush fire near Punaluu Beach shut down both directions of Highway 11. Credit: Kekuiapoiwa Mills-Bredeson/Facebook

A brush fire near Punaluu Beach shut down both directions of Highway 11. Credit: Kekuiapoiwa Mills-Bredeson/Facebook

From the Source:

A brush fire scorched more than 100 acres and forced the closure of Highway 11 on Tuesday in the area of Punaluu Beach Park.

The fire, which broke out some time after midnight Tuesday, burned approximately 122 acres between Ninole Loop, Highway 11 and Sea Mountain Golf Course in Ka‘u, Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Darwin Okinaka told West Hawaii Today.

Hawaii Island Firefighters Contain 1,600-Acre Kau Blaze

"This photo, taken in the Mark Twain subdivision, shows a fire that was reported near Waikapuna Bay." (Photo courtesy/Alan Gervasi)

"This photo, taken in the Mark Twain subdivision, shows a fire that was reported near Waikapuna Bay." (Photo courtesy/Alan Gervasi)

Even with terrain that was very difficult to access and unfavorable windy and dry conditions, firefighters were able to put out this large wildfire between Waikapuna Bay and Naalehu town in Kau. Mahalo to all of the first responders for their courage and persistence!

From the Source:

"Hawai‘i Island firefighters finally contained a large brush fire on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, that started on Thursday along the coastline between Waikapuna Bay and Na‘alehu town in the Ka‘ū District."

"The fire continued to burn through uneven terrain with variable fuel-vegetation mixtures.

The rugged terrain in the area enables only limited 4-by-4 vehicle access and air access.

The area is primarily cattle pasture, with some native trees and archeology."

Haleakala Highway and South Point Fires Burn on Maui and Big Island

Be on the alert - with drought conditions and strong winds, fires can become out of control or change direction quickly and can threaten homes, roadways, or other critical areas. Take precaution and stay tuned to local radio stations and county alerts. And remember to evacuate early should the fire become a threat to your neighborhood.

From the Source:

"On Maui, fighters are battling a fire along Haleakala Highway on the ground and by air. The fire was reported just before 4 p.m., and has since scorched 80 to 100 acres of old sugar cane crop."

Haleakala Highway Fire - September 21, 2017. Credit: Asa Ellison / Hawaii News Now

Haleakala Highway Fire - September 21, 2017. Credit: Asa Ellison / Hawaii News Now

Kaalualu Fire - September 21, 2017. Credit: Kane Thomas

Kaalualu Fire - September 21, 2017. Credit: Kane Thomas

"On Hawaii Island, a large brush fire near South Point in Ka'u has forced crews to issue a warning to residents.

They say the smoke could make it hard to see and make it harder to breathe near Waiohinu. Residents are being asked to stay out of the area.

Emergency responders say the fire broke out about 4 hours ago in Kaalualu. 

Fire crews can't expect much help from the weather in battling the flames either.

Winds are running at brisk speeds throughout the state making it difficult for firefighters to extinguish both fires. Rain is also scarce in those areas, and fire crews will remain on scene." 

Dry Year So Far for Big Island

"The flood channel that runs under the intersection of Kinoole and Mohouli streets in Hilo was dry Tuesday." Credit - Hollyn Johnson / Hawaii Tribune-Herald

"The flood channel that runs under the intersection of Kinoole and Mohouli streets in Hilo was dry Tuesday." Credit - Hollyn Johnson / Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Drier conditions, even on the wet side, means a higher potential for wildfire. You might live in the green, but when severe droughts occur, anywhere can be at risk for fire. Be prepared, have a plan, and stay vigilant using the Ready, Set, Go! Wildland Fire Action Guide and Wildfire Lookout!

From the Source:

"Hilo is on pace to have one of its drier years on record, and July’s rainfall totals brought little if any relief to drought-affected areas of the Big Island, according to the National Weather Service in Honolulu."

"'It’s been pretty dry up on the Hamakua Coast and down into the the leeward South Kohala district. They’re considered to be under severe drought as well as the interior section of the Big Island. The eastern side of Pohakuloa Training Area has been pretty dry. The western side has been getting some spotty rain, so some of the gauges there are pretty close to normal,' Kodama said Monday.

The most recent drought statement from the weather service said ranchers in leeward South Kohala 'have destocked pastures' due to 'very poor vegetation conditions.' It noted that pastures in Ookala, where Big Island Dairy operates, and in Paauilo were becoming dry, and a ginger farmer in Umauma reported stunted growth in his crops."

Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization Supports Formation of Firewise Communities in Hawaii

"According to the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, about 0.5% of Hawaii’s total land area burns annually, as much or more than the proportion of land are burned in any other US state. In Hawaii, 98% of wildfires are human caused."

We are extremely grateful to be a part of the Firewise Communities program and were highlighted for our efforts in January's National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Fire Break newsletter!

From the Source:

"Wildfire in Hawaii, like anywhere else, threatens the safety of firefighters, residents andhomes. It also causes damage to the air quality, which impacts human health, and contributes to soil erosion problems that can cause damage to sensitive coral reefs. One of the partners in Hawaii working to help lessen the loss due to wildfire in Hawaii is the Hawaiian Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO). They are a small nonprofit organization that has been working together with fire departments, the Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife, communities and others to help develop Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) and Firewise Communities. The HWMO was officially founded in 2000 by a group of South Kohala/North Kona regional experts who wanted to create a non-profit organization to serve as an arm for the fire suppression and land management agencies to conduct prevention, pre-suppression, and post-fire work. They became incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2002. Since then, they have grown to not only address wildfire issues for all of Hawaii Island, but also the entire state and some of the Western Pacific (namely Yap, Palau, Guam).

According to Pablo Beimler, Coordinator with HWMO, "'Although we have a small staff, HWMO is continually able to accomplish a number of projects due to its extensive partnerships. We can't say it enough: by staying in communication with our partners on each project, and expanding partnerships where needed, they are able to ensure our projects stay grounded and effective.'"

"Pablo described other wildfire preparedness projects in which HWMO is involved. "We have a Firewise demonstration garden in Waikoloa Village, where we have a number of native, drought-tolerant plants growing strategically around a demo home to give community members an example of good defensible space practices. Our team has held a number of community events at the garden and have had a youth environmental empowerment group called the Malama Kai Ocean Warriors help be the ‘stewards’ of the garden. In terms of other youth outreach, we also go to numerous schools and youth programs to teach students about wildfire prevention and preparedness, including Firewise and Ready, Set, Go! principles. We also hold community wildfire preparedness workshops for various organizations/groups or for the general public where we give people a run-down on Firewise and Ready, Set, Go!."  

Firefighters Work to Extinguish Green Sands Blaze

Even when homes aren't damaged in a wildfire, residents can still be affected severely by wildfire from effects you may not normally think of. The latest scare in Kaʻū depleted people's ability to access drinking water.

From the Source:

"The Hawaii Fire Department continued Tuesday battling a Ka‘u brush fire outside Naalehu that destroyed a home in Green Sands subdivision.

The fire was about 80 percent contained as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira.

'We still have just one structure that was lost,' he said. 'And, fortunately, even that one structure lost was a vacant structure. So, the Red Cross is currently not in the position of having to provide shelter for anyone.'

However, about 24 of the homes in the neighborhood were on county-metered water and were fed by exposed plastic pipes that were melted by the fire.

'So, we have a number of residents down there without water,' he said.

Green Sands Fire '50 Percent' Contained

When it's time to evacuate, make sure to listen to Civil Defense messages for the correct evacuation routes and shelter locations. Our hearts go out to those who's homes are being threatened in the Green Sands area.

For more information on the proper evacuation protocol, check out the Ready, Set, Go! Hawaii Wildland Fire Action Guide.

From the Source:

"Hawai’i County Fire Department crews are battling a runaway brush fire in the Na’alehu Green Sands subdivision.

The fire is reportedly burning out of control. No estimate as to how many acres have burned is currently available.

Residents in the Green Sands subdivision have been asked to evacuate. The evacuation is due to high winds and heavy smoke conditions."

"Naalehu brush fire. Photo credit: Eric Fandrick."

"Naalehu brush fire. Photo credit: Eric Fandrick."

Hawaii Island Brush Fire Still Out of Control - Residents Allowed to Return

Green Sands Subdivision residents were forced to evacuate due to an out-of-control wildfire driven by high winds. Wildfire season is here - we hope that you have everything you need to be Ready!

From the Source:

"Nearby residents are being allowed to return to their homes. They were evacuated earlier in the afternoon due to high winds and heavy smoke conditions. No one was reported hurt.

'Just smelling the smoke and it got worse and worse and all of a sudden I could see the smoke,' resident Patti Snyder told KHON2. “I thought, oh man, I better call the fire department back again and I told them where I thought it was and I said, well should I leave because I got ashes coming on my house!'"

Screen-capture from KHON2 video.

Screen-capture from KHON2 video.

Input Needed for Community Wildfire Protection Plans

Front page of the West Hawaii Today featuring our recent CWPP meetings. Great article to read to learn about what CWPPs are all about. 

From the Source: 

"Work to reduce wildfire threat on Hawaii Island continued this week as a community meeting was held to generate concerns and solutions.

Feedback garnered Wednesday evening at Konawaena Elementary School will be used to produce an updated Community Wildfire Protection Plan for South Kona. It’s one of four plans being created for free by the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization. Other areas getting an updated plan are Volcano, Ka‘u and Ocean View. The North Kona plan will be developed in the near future.

Community Wildfire Protection Plans are authorized and defined in the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, which gives the public the opportunity to influence where and how agencies should work with communities in implementing fuel reduction projects and protecting resources from loss.

These plans are a prerequisite for federal funding for projects, such as building dip tanks and firebreaks, providing critical education, outreach and field training, getting fire equipment, and upgrading infrastructure and property. Such plans serve as a mechanism for community input and are key to identifying specific projects intended to mitigate fire risk and areas of concern in the wildland-urban interface, or WUI, said Ilene Grossman, Community Wildfire Protection Plans project manager."

"Residents have until March 1 to provide input on the draft plans and can do so by calling the organization at 885-0900 or emailing admin@hawaiiwildfire.org."

Above: "Federal, state, and county firefighters teamed together to suppress a wildland fire burning through ohia forest in Kealakekua mauka in late 2009 and early 2010." Credit - National Park Service/Al Aviles

Above: "Federal, state, and county firefighters teamed together to suppress a wildland fire burning through ohia forest in Kealakekua mauka in late 2009 and early 2010." Credit - National Park Service/Al Aviles

Kaʻu News Brief - Wildfire Prevention Planning

Click to enlarge sample.

From the Source:

"Wildfire prevention planning moved to Ocean View Community Center last night where the Hawai`i Wildfire Management Organization met with residents, asking for input to update the Ka`u Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The team is taking suggestions by mail and email.

 Residents and firefighters talked about only one fire hydrant serving all of Ocean View and noted the plan for a new well, which would allow for numerous hydrants. A dip tank for helicopter water drops and a 3,000 gallon water tank assigned to firefighting were suggested. Homeowners talked about fittings that could connect their catchment and holding tanks with fire fighting equipment. How to manage home water tanks for fire protection was mentioned."

Hawaii Island Community Wildfire Protection Plan Meetings

Community Wildfire Protection Plan update meetings for the Big Island made it onto the front page of Hawaii 24/7:

From the Source: 

"Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization will hold community input meetings to update four Hawaii County Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs) for Volcano, Ka‘u, Ocean View, and South Kona communities.

Community input is critical to the CWPP process to determine priority wildfire concerns, needs, and action steps to better prepare and protect fire-prone areas from wildfires.

The CWPP update meetings will identify and prioritize projects to reduce the threat of wildfire to these communities."Community input is critical to the CWPP process to determine priority wildfire concerns, needs, and action steps to better prepare and protect fire-prone areas from wildfires."

Above: "Punaluu Brush Fire" Credit - Hawaii 24/7

Above: "Punaluu Brush Fire" Credit - Hawaii 24/7

With Hawaii's Year-Round Fire Season, Residents are Urged to Prepare

Hawaii Wildfire hits the front pages again. Read about how the upcoming wildfire preparedness workshops will prepare you far in advance of a wildfire occurring in your area. 

From the Source: 

"Heavy brush resulting from recent rains, followed by abnormal dryness, has created the ideal conditions for wildfire, and a Waimea-based nonprofit is urging residents to take precautions before the threat occurs. 

Inside the Ocean View Community Center Monday evening, the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization shared details from its latest wildland fire action guide, with hopes of getting the public to prepare and remember its message of “Ready, Set, Go!” This was the first in a series of hour-long workshops, happening now through Aug. 6 islandwide.

Fire season in Hawaii is a year-round reality, said Elizabeth Pickett, the organization’s executive director. Fires have increased in size, frequency and intensity on all islands over the years, particularly as towns expand into formerly undeveloped places and areas of fallow, invasive or unmanaged vegetation, and as human-caused fires, such as roadside ignitions, have increased.

Pickett also explained how nonnative, fire-adapted vegetation has rapidly spread, not just through wildland landscapes, but also in communities. She said these nonnative grasslands and shrubs now cover nearly a quarter of Hawaii’s total land area, and together with a warming, drying climate, greatly increase fire incidence.

Over the past decade, firefighters statewide battled more than 900 wildland fire ignitions, which burned more than 17,000 acres, each year. In recent years, large fires have occurred in North and South Kohala, North and South Kona, and Ka‘u. Such large fires — those more than 100 acres — are not a novelty, especially when considering data from the Pacific Fire Exchange which shows a steady increase over the past 50 years, Pickett said.

Increases in wildfire pose threats not just to human safety and infrastructure, but also agriculture, native ecosystems, cultural resources, watershed function and nearshore coastal resources, she added.

Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization collected fire records from all the fire response agencies in Hawaii, including the four county fire departments, the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Department of Defense records were not included because they’re classified for security reasons.

After making the records mapable and compatible, as well as logging the more than 13,500 fires in a database, the nonprofit was able to find trends and patterns of wildfire ignitions on the main Hawaii Islands. The result: “It’s really a lot of roadside ignitions,” Pickett said. “These maps have been a really good communication tool to get some of our decision-makers’ attention about fire prevention needing to be ramped up in regards to wildfire.”

During Monday’s meeting, officials mentioned how studies have shown that as many as 80 percent of the homes lost in wildland fires could have been saved if owners had done a few fire-safe practices. The new wildland action guide, called “Ready, Set, Go!,” offers Hawaii-specific information on how to prepare for wildland fire threat, have “situational awareness” during a fire, and how to leave safely.

Pickett said “Ready, Set, Go!” is the result of a nationwide discussion in the fire service on how to best protect homes, lives and resources in the wildland-urban interface, where development borders a natural area and the ember zone, which is an area where the embers from a wind-driven wildfire can ignite homes.

Pickett claimed the program had its roots in Australia’s “Stay and Defend” wildfire plan, which fire officials in the U.S. objected to because it might cause resources to be diverted from protecting structures to rescuing residents in fire areas. They also thought the risks inherent in not evacuating in advance of a wildfire outweighed any potential benefit.

The guide focuses on building defensible space around homes and structures, sharing materials that can make homes more firesafe, and revealing the impacts caused by wildland fire. It also offers checklists for residents, large landowners and land managers.

Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization began in 2000 and was incorporated two years later by various stakeholders, with the goal of characterizing wildfire threats and developing mitigation strategies. “Meant to be proactive and collaborative,” this nonprofit is “always in cahoots” with its partners, including the Pacific Fire Exchange, state Division of Forestry and Wildlife, University of Hawaii’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, fire departments, and Civil Defense. The organization supplements and complements with activities already on the ground by doing projects that fit its partners’ needs, Pickett said.

Such projects include: building fuel breaks, putting in infrastructure like dip tanks, water troughs, fittings and adapters, holding workshops on making landscaping fire-wise and best management practices, and doing outreach. The organization also helps create community wildfire protection plans for free and has produced wildfire hazard assessments, which educate residents about the low, moderate and high hazards pertaining to 36 different criteria like ignition risk and water availability in their area.

The latest wildland fire action guide was one of the projects made possible through a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service, Pickett said.

The other workshops for “Ready, Set, Go!,” beginning at 6 p.m., are tonight at Waikoloa Community Association’s community room, Friday at the Cooper Center in Volcano, Monday at Pahala Elementary School, Tuesday at Thelma Parker Memorial Library in Waimea, July 31 at the West Hawaii Civic Center Liquor Control conference room, Aug. 4 at Konawaena Elementary School and Aug. 6 at the Hawaii Community College West Hawaii campus.

For more information, call 885-0900 or visit hawaiiwildfire.org."

Above: "Firefighters watch a brush fire burn in Kona in July 2013." Credit: West Hawaii Today

Above: "Firefighters watch a brush fire burn in Kona in July 2013." Credit: West Hawaii Today

Wildfire Preparedness Workshops Planned Islandwide

From the Source: 

"Hawaii is no stranger to its residents experiencing close calls with wildfires. In recent years, large fires have occurred in North and South Kohala, North and South Kona, and Ka‘u. Of note, the Waikoloa Fires of 2005 and 2007 would have engulfed the town of Waikoloa Village had first responders not been able to defend the village along its recently completed firebreaks. Every family, resident, and large landowner can avoid the danger and impacts of wildfire with adequate preparation.Unlike other natural hazards, wildfire is unique in that there are many things you can do ahead of time to reduce your risk of losing property or loved ones. Residents can take charge by strategically reducing vegetation around homes, fire-proofing homes and structures with non-combustible materials, and creating and practicing a thorough family emergency plan.

Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Waimea, will be hosting a series of free community wildfire preparedness workshops in some of the most fire-prone areas of the Big Island. Those who attend will learn about Hawaii’s wildfire issues and how they can mitigate those issues through proper home landscaping techniques and home structure modifications. They will also learn about how to develop a clear and achievable family emergency plan, what actions to take during a wildfire, and proper evacuation procedures.

Workshop Schedule:

July 21 — Ocean View Community Center, 92-8924 Leilani Circle

July 23 — Waikoloa Community Association Community Room, 68-1792 Melia St.

July 25 — Cooper Center, 19-4030 Wright Road, Volcano

July 28 — Pahala Elementary School, 96-3150 Pikake Place

July 29 — Thelma Parker Memorial Library, 67-1209 Mamalahoa Highway, Waimea

July 3 1 — Civic Center Liquor Control Conference Room, 2nd Floor of Building B, 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Highway, Kona

Aug. 4 — Konawaena Elementary School, 81-901 Onouli Road

Aug. 6 — Hawaii Community College West Hawaii Campus, 81-964 Halekiai St.

Each workshop is 6-7 p.m.

For more information, contact: pablo@hawaiiwildfire.org or (808) 885-0900. Visit hawaiiwildfire.org."

Kau Brush Fire Chars More Than 1,000 Acres

From the Source: 

"Firefighters are getting the upper hand on a brush fire that consumed more than 1,000 acres after igniting Sunday afternoon near Kaalualu Bay in Ka‘u.

Just over a half dozen Hawaii Fire Department and volunteer personnel on Monday morning remained at the scene, located off South Point Road, dousing hot spots and flareups within the 1,022 burn area, said HFD Battalion Chief Warren Sumida. He said the firefighters are being aided by overcast skies and light rain."

Above: "Firefighters are getting the upper hand on a brush fire that consumed more than 1,000 acres after igniting Sunday afternoon near Kaalualu Bay in Ka'u. This photo shows smoke rising from the blaze on Sunday afternoon." Credit: Pierce Schwalb/West Hawaii Today

Above: "Firefighters are getting the upper hand on a brush fire that consumed more than 1,000 acres after igniting Sunday afternoon near Kaalualu Bay in Ka'u. This photo shows smoke rising from the blaze on Sunday afternoon." Credit: Pierce Schwalb/West Hawaii Today

Brushfire South of Punaluu Beach Under Control

From the Source:

"County firefighters this morning continued to extinguish hot spots in a brush fire that blackened about 12 acres near Punaluu Beach Tuesday night.

Firefighters arriving at the scene at 6:03 p.m. Tuesday found a fire with a 75-foot front moving through brush and trees along the shoreline just south of the beach.

The fire was being driven by east-northeasterly winds of 25-35 mph, said fire Capt. Curt Yamashita of the Pahala Fire Station.

It took about two hours of efforts by personnel from the Pahala station and volunteer firefighters to get the fire under control.

Vehicles with off-road capabilities were used to suppress the head of the fire while other equipment was utilized to secure the roadway separating the shore from the SeaMountain Golf Course, and to keep the fire from the Colony One condominiums further mauka.

The cause of the fire was unknown, Yamashita said."

Above: "The coast south of Punaluu Beach, with Punaluu Beach Park at the far left."

Above: "The coast south of Punaluu Beach, with Punaluu Beach Park at the far left."

Lost Mauna Loa Hikers Rescued

We are grateful for all of the risks and hard-work our Hawaii island fire department personnel endure each and every day. 

From the Source:

“Rescuers from the county and the US Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area assisted a group of hikers who had become lost while descending from the summit of Mauna Loa Saturday night.”

"A team of HFD and PTA personnel located the lost hikers with the help of PTA “brush trucks,” a combination all-terrain vehicle for firefighting and rescues and escorted them to the observatory."

Above: "Two brush trucks similar to the one picture above were used to help rescue hikers lost on Mauna Loa. Texas A&M photo."

Above: "Two brush trucks similar to the one picture above were used to help rescue hikers lost on Mauna Loa. Texas A&M photo."

Eye on the Mountain

From the Source:

“The Nature Conservancy, in cooperation with the National Park Service, has installed an unblinking eye high on the mountain. The new “fire cam” covers a broad sweep of terrain, from the Ka‘ū forest in the south to Macandless Ranch further north, much of it above the cloud line in a region often not visible from lower elevations.”