Hawaii Island: Pohakuloa

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.

Fire sparked during RIMPAC exercises consumes 2,000 acres

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From the Source:

A large brush fire near Pohakuloa Training Area was apparently sparked late Wednesday by U.S. Marine Corps helicopters participating in RIMPAC exercises, military officials said Thursday.

Flares released by the UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters apparently ignited grass within an environmentally protected area in the vicinity of mile marker 44, said Lt. Cmdr. Julie Holland with the RIMPAC Combined Information Bureau Media Cell.

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."

Waimea Fire Burns More Than 2000 Acres and Shuts Down Airport

Credit: Hawaii Tribune Herald

Credit: Hawaii Tribune Herald

Large brushfires can have many impacts outside of just land area burned: homes are at risk, flights can be cancelled, animal shelters can be in danger, even from just smoke inhalation. That is exactly what happened during a large 2,000-plus acre wildfire in Waimea. Our brave firefighters were able to keep damage to a minimum during the wildfire and help from Humane Society volunteers ensured animals were kept safe from the flames and smoke. Community is more important than ever during times like these. We thank community members and firefighters for their efforts. A great way to honor our firefighters (and fire prevention and mitigation efforts) will be the Firefighter Chili Cook-Off in Waimea. Come join us -- we could use your help especially after scares like these.

From the Source:

"'We could see a lot of smoke going into the sky,' Carlos said. 'And we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is that?’ And the closer we got to Waimea town, we could see it was really close to town.'

The fire prompted Hawaii Island Humane Society to evacuate its Waimea shelter Friday afternoon.

Director Donna Whitaker said in an email that volunteers removed 55 animals from the shelter. They were taken into the care of community members, staff and volunteers."

"The Waimea-Kohala Airport closed its runway Friday as a precaution, airport manager Tim Hand said when contacted at about 2 p.m. The closure was expected to remain in place until 10 p.m. Hand said the airport also had received several phone calls."

"Police are asking for the public’s assistance in locating witnesses to the start of the fire. The investigation is being continued by the Area II Criminal Investigation Section. They are asking anyone with information to call Detective Dominic Uyetake at 326-4646, ext. 228, or email him at Dominic.Uyetake@hawaiicounty.gov. They also can call the Police Department’s nonemergency line at 935-3311.

Those who want to remain anonymous can call the islandwide Crime Stoppers number at 961-8300 and might be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000."

Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness in Kona Kicks Off Wildfire Season

Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness. Credit: Hawaii DLNR

Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness. Credit: Hawaii DLNR

We are excited to say that not only was HWMO's Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness a success on May 6, but it also received statewide media attention. One of the highlights of the event was the official launch of Wildfire Lookout!, a multi-partner coordinated statewide wildfire prevention and preparedness campaign. Mahalo to KHON2, KITV, and Big Island Video News for coverage of the event, and a very special mahalo to Department of Land and Natural Resources for documenting the day's proceedings and sharing with the media.

From the Sources:

"'In the end, all of us are impacted by wildfire. It’s just that some of those impacts are more invisible than others, so people aren’t quite as aware,' Elizabeth Pickett, executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, said.

Pickett says over 25-percent of the state has been invaded by non-native, fire-prone grasses and shrubs.

That percentage grows as fires consume native forests which are then taken over by those invasive species." - KHON2
 

"The importance of land and homeowners to be fire ready is the theme of National Community Wildfire Preparedness Day events and activities across the country today. At the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area on Hawai‘i Island’s west side, Elizabeth Pickett watched as several non-profit organizations set up booths and exhibits for the first-ever Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness. Pickett is the executive director of the Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO), which with DLNR, and two dozen other State and federal government organizations and various non-profits are supporting the second year of a public and media awareness campaign: Wildfire LOOKOUT!

Pickett explained to people who dropped by the HWMO booth, that just because they may never have personally experienced a wildfire close to their home or property, that doesn’t mean they weren’t impacted. She explained, “Especially in our island environment the negative impacts of a wildfire in a specific location usually has detrimental impacts many miles away that can persist for years and even decades. You often hear people refer to 'mauka to makai,' and that effect pertains to wildfire. Once land is stripped of trees and vegetation it becomes much more prone to erosion and the introduction of invasive species and soot and sediment can wash from mountain forests to the sea where it can choke out life in coral reefs.'

Big Island State Representative Cindy Evans emphasized the need for everyone in Hawai‘i to become aware of these impacts and to do their part to prevent wildland fires. She’s seen first- hand the devastation and destruction, these often fast moving fires cause. Evans said, 'Even the loss of one home is one too many when you consider that with a little awareness, people truly can prevent wildland fires.'" - Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (picked up by Big Island Video News)

Keamuku Fire Burns 770 Acres - Two Miles From Waikii Ranch

Credit: PTA Natural Resources Office

Mahalo to our brave firefighters for ensuring the Waikii Ranch community is protected from the 770-acre blaze.

From the Source:

“The fire is burning in light flashy fuels mostly grass and does not pose a threat to any roadways or private property,” a Hawaii County Civil Defense message stated. “Fire activity is slow at this time but continues to produce lots of smoke.”

“The Keamuku Maneuver Area (KMA) is the northernmost part of the Pohakuloa Training Area,” reports the US Army Garrison Hawaii. “The linear front of the fire spans approximately a half-mile and is about two miles from KMA’s nearest neighbor, the Waikii Ranch.”

Brush Fire Covers 393 Acres Near Waikii Ranch

"An Army UH-60 Blackhawk drops water on a fire near Waikii Ranch on Monday afternoon. The crew came from the medevac team." (Graham Milldrum / West Hawaii Today)

Creating a buffer-zone doesn't just have to stop around your home - a community-wide fuelbreak can be the difference between a destructive fire or not. Firefighters primarily from U.S. Army Pohakuloa Training Area were able to keep a 393-acre fire in the northern portion of Waikii on Hawaii Island from getting close to homes in the area in large part due to pre-fire fuels management. 

From the Source:

"Firefighters managed to keep it away from the homes in large part because a crew at the Waikii Ranch keeps the buffer zone largely clear of material, said Captain Steve Colona of the Pohakuloa Training Area’s Fire and Emergency Services."

"Then things changed.

'Well, the wind didn’t cooperate,' said Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Ty Medeiros.

It moved to the south and expanded the blaze, he said, which broke the fire’s containment although the area threatened has no structures in it.

The 20-mph winds not only directed the fire, they complicated the efforts of the two helicopters dropping water. One came from the county, and the other from the medevac unit stationed at the base."

Firefighters Battle 'Suspicious' Fires in South Kohala, North Kona

Great to see amazing cooperation among our first response agencies who are putting their lives at stake to control a number of simultaneous wildfires in the Puu Anahulu area. Mahalo for all of their hard work and dedication!

Please report any suspicious activity to 911. Also please follow roadblock instructions from HPD personnel. Mahalo for your kokua and stay safe.

"Several fires broke out above Highway 190 near mile markers 17 and 18 and its intersection with the Daniel K. Inouye Highway Thursday. (Rick Winters/West Hawaii Today)"

From the Source:

"Firefighters continued to battle multiple “suspicious” brush fires in South Kohala and North Kona that had consumed more than 300 acres as of Thursday evening.

Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Gantry Andrade told West Hawaii Today that officials considered the fires “suspicious.” All of the fires were reported shortly before 4 p.m. in dry brush and fountain grass near major roadways in the vicinity of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

“It’s unlikely multiple fires would start in multiple locations at the same time,” he said. Hawaii Fire Department investigators were on the scene and looking into the cause of the blaze as of press time."

"Luckily, wind conditions were in firefighters’ favor throughout the afternoon and evening with mild winds blowing out of the northeast that allowed crews to keep the fire from growing larger, he said.

An array of firefighters remained at the scenes of the fires as of press time, including state, county, volunteer and federal assets. During daylight hours, the firefighters were assisted by two Hawaii County helicopters performing water drops."

Fire Endangers Kohala Again as Kawaihae Blaze Carries Memories of Destructive Summer Fire

"The wreckage from a semi and fire truck collision is seen on Kawaihae Road Friday afternoon. Laura Shimabuku/West Hawaii Today"

"The wreckage from a semi and fire truck collision is seen on Kawaihae Road Friday afternoon. Laura Shimabuku/West Hawaii Today"

The first sign of a busy winter occurred in Kawaihae this week. Although the area turned green and lush after the large summer Kawaihae fire that scarred 4,000+ acres, that also meant more plant growth and thus more fuel for the next fire. Within a few months, a chunk of the area that burned in August burned again. We call this the fire cycle. 

Unfortunately, two HFD firefighters were injured when responding to the wildfire. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them and their ohana and we hope for a speedy recovery. We must give thanks everyday (not just on Thanksgiving) to the incredible firefighters who put their bodies and lives on the line to protect our communities and natural resources from fire. 

From the Source:

"The residents of Kawaihae Village had another immediate view of the progressing blaze, as several watched the varying size of the smoke column, the actions of the Fire Department’s water-dropping helicopters and efforts of ground-based firefighters."

"Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said on Monday that they expect the upcoming dry season to have numerous fires. The unusually heavy rains encouraged plant growth, he said, particularly fountain grass. The invasive species survives fires, unlike native life, and 'makes excellent fuel for fires,' according to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council.

Oliveira said fountain grass forms the majority of fuel in the wildfires they see."

Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization and Pacific Fire Exchange

Thank you to North Hawaii News for profiling Hawaii Wildfire's efforts along with Pacific Fire Exchange's!

From the Source:

"HWMO’s mission is to work with communities to be more fire wise and to reduce the risk of wildfires. Headquartered in Waimea, the organization’s outreach includes educational activities, fuels management projects — to reduce anything that will fuel a fire — restoration of native plants, research and even assisting in the development of K-8 curriculum on fire knowledge.

About 40 people attended HWMO’s annual meeting at the Pohakuloa Training Area last week to network and receive updates on the organization’s projects. Among those participating were representatives from the University of Hawaii Fire Management, Parker Ranch Fire Protection, Hawaii State Fish and Wildlife, Hawaii Island Native Seed Bank, and Rep. Cindy Evans, D-North Kona, Kohala."

Above: Participants from various wildfire organizations gather at Mauna Kea State Park on July 20 to discuss events of the 2010 fire that burned 25,000 acres. (PHOTO BY CYNTHIA SWEENEY| SPECIAL TO NHN)

Above: Participants from various wildfire organizations gather at Mauna Kea State Park on July 20 to discuss events of the 2010 fire that burned 25,000 acres. (PHOTO BY CYNTHIA SWEENEY| SPECIAL TO NHN)

State to Install Diptanks on Mauna Kea

We made the front page of West Hawaii Today, yet again! This time, we were mentioned for the hard work we have put towards installing dip tanks between Puuanahulu and Waikoloa. We were also accredited for helping demonstrate the high-frequency of wildfires in non-bare lava surface between Waimea and Puuwaawaa through our fire history mapping project. By showing the high-frequency of wildfires in these areas, we have helped attract funding for diptanks and other resources to assist fire fighters in the event of a wildfire. 

From the Source:

"In addition to the state’s planned fire diptanks, the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, with federal funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is finalizing environmental compliance needed to build tanks between Puuanahulu and Waikoloa, according to the assessment."


"According to the draft, maps of wildfires between 1954 and 2005 compiled by the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization show that most of the nonbare lava surface between Waimea and Puuwaawaa has burned, much of it multiple times."

Above: "A Hawaii County helicopter drops water on a fire Oct. 5 in Kailua-Kona. The state is moving forward with plans to construct two water tanks that will feed diptanks for helicopters to use while fighting fires on the southwestern slopes of Mauna Kea. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today FILE PHOTO)"

Above: "A Hawaii County helicopter drops water on a fire Oct. 5 in Kailua-Kona. The state is moving forward with plans to construct two water tanks that will feed diptanks for helicopters to use while fighting fires on the southwestern slopes of Mauna Kea. (Chelsea Jensen/West Hawaii Today FILE PHOTO)"

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."

VIDEO: Saddle Road Open, Mauna Kea Wildfire Burns

From the Source:

“The wildfire at the U.S. Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area has now consumed an estimated 1,350 acres and remains at 55% contained, according to a Wednesday afternoon message issued by the Hawaii County Civil Defense.
Saddle Road re-opened to the public after 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, with detours at mile marker 29 directing traffic to the old Saddle Road and re-routing back to the new Saddle Road at mile marker 34.5 near Mauna Kea State Park. Mauna Kea State Park was closed to public access, as the fire continued to spread on the slopes of the mountain."