Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Mauna Loa Road Closed To Cars Due To Very High Fire Danger

On December 13, volunteers remove koali ʻawa from Kīpukapuaulu (NSP Photo/Janice Wei)

On December 13, volunteers remove koali ʻawa from Kīpukapuaulu (NSP Photo/Janice Wei)

From the Source:

The gate near Kīpukapuaulu parking area has been closed, as Mauna Loa Road has been declared off limits to motorized vehicles until further notice, due to a very high fire danger.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park officials on Monday said non-motorized day use such as hiking and bicycling will be permitted, and backcountry camping on Mauna Loa is still allowed with a permit.

Open fires, including charcoal cooking fires, are prohibited at the Kīpukapuaulu picnic area, and Kilauea Military Camp. Propane or gas cooking stoves are permitted, park officials say.

“The strong winds and dry weather over the past week has led to a rapid escalation of fire danger on Mauna Loa, and fire danger indexes have reached critical thresholds at the Mauna Loa weather station,” said Fire Management Officer Greg Funderburk.

The Naional Park Service says “hot components on motor vehicles have historically contributed to the increased risk of fire. By reducing the number of vehicles in high-risk areas, the park can mitigate the potential for a catastrophic event.”

Over the summer, a 3,739-acre wildfire on Mauna Loa threatened values park resources like the Kīpukakī and Kīpukapuaulu Special Ecological Areas, cultural heritage areas and rare forest habitat for endangered species. A coordinated effort managed to contain the blaze.

VIDEO: Mauna Loa Brush Fire Update From NPS

“Briefing map used to chart the brush fire fight on Mauna Loa.” Credit: Big island Video News

“Briefing map used to chart the brush fire fight on Mauna Loa.” Credit: Big island Video News

From the Source:

“With the cooler and wetter weather, firefighters are focusing on mop-up and patrol of firelines,” a recent National Park Service media release stated. “They are also starting the process of back-haul, returning equipment and supplies used on the fire, by strategically bringing those resources back to be cleaned and refurbished. Additionally, fire crews are working with park biologists along the park boundary to assess fences and to carefully fall a limited number of trees that became hazards from the fire. Together they are also analyzing any potential impacts from the fire suppression efforts such as bulldozer lines that were created to stop the spread of the fire.”

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.

Park Officials Seek Witnesses to Volcanoes National Park Campground Fire

Credit: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Credit: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

We have already lost much of our native forests for various reasons, wildfire being one of the major contributors. We cannot lose any more of them. 

“'With a hot and dry summer upon us, we’re definitely at an increased risk for fire in the park and across the island,' said Hawaii Volcanoes National Park fire management officer Greg Funderburk. 'It’s important to remember that while parts of the island might be getting rainfall, other areas are very dry and quite susceptible to fire.'

"Fire officials at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are seeking witnesses to a fire that burned about a quarter-acre of native koa and ohia forest behind a cabin at Namakanipaio Campground Tuesday afternoon."

"An investigation is underway. Witnesses and anyone with information about the fire are encouraged to call Park Dispatch at 808-985-6170. Callers may remain anonymous."

Organizations Kick Off Wildfire and Drought Look Out! Campaign

Credit - Molly Solomon/HPR

HWMO and its partners statewide worked together to launch Wildfire & Drought Look Out!, Hawaii's first coordinated statewide wildfire outreach campaign. Here are a number of news clippings from TV, radio, and newspaper sources and the links to each source.



“‘I have been preparing for it for years now,’ said Momoa. ‘Ever since I moved in there, I could see the vision that it was going to burn soon.’”

Big Island Now:

“‘We have set up both a public and a media page on the HWMO website. The public page will have loads of information for home and property owners on how best to prepare for the possibility of wildfire well in advance,’ said HWMO Executive Director Elizabeth Pickett. ‘We’ll include water saving information which is really topical during this prolonged drought event in many areas across the state, largely caused by El Nino weather conditions.’

HWMO will also maintain and manage a media page, where partners can contribute story ideas and leads for reporters and their news organizations.”

Maui News:

“Prevention suggestions include:

* Clearing combustible materials near homes and lanais.

* Keeping grass short and tree branches off of the ground.

* Creating a defensible space at least 100 feet around a home.

* Removing leaves and debris from gutters and roofs.

* Covering eaves and vents with -inch mesh.

* Creating and practicing a family evacuation plan.”


“With an above-average fire season ahead, state officials stress a need for public awareness. Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization is a nonprofit that’s working with federal, state and local agencies to kick start a campaign to provide information and tips for homeowners. More information can be found on their website, hawaiiwildfire.org.”

Honolulu Civil Beat:

More than 60 percent of the state is experiencing moderate drought conditions, and parts of the Big Island are facing extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Credit - Clay Trauernicht

“We hope this campaign, which has both a public and a media component, will educate and inform everyone living in and visiting Hawaii about the year-around threat of wildfires,” DLNR Director Suzanne Case said in a release.

Hookele News:

“The campaign seeks to educate homeowners and communities and empower them to take proactive steps that reduce the chances of wildfire ignition and create safer conditions for our firefighters.”


Initial 2015 BioBlitz Results

We had the opportunity to be a part of this incredible event, as one of the outreach booths at the Cultural Festival. Find out more about what we did at the event.

From the Source:

"Student inventory. Photo credit: Chris Johns/National Geographic."

"Student inventory. Photo credit: Chris Johns/National Geographic."

"Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park held the ninth of 10 annual BioBlitz events over the weekend. The events are hosted by National Geographic and the National Park Service and have spanned the entire country over the past decade. According to HVNP officials, the events are leading up the NPS’s centennial in 2016.

The 2015 event, which was a combined BioBlitz and Biodiversity & Cultural Festival, hosted more than 6,000 people including more than 850 school-aged children. During the event, more than 170 scientists and traditional Hawaiian practitioners came together to conduct a comprehensive inventory of the plants, insects, mammals, birds, and other species that inhabit HVNP. Officials say the program gathers a 'vivid snapshot of the unique plant and animal biodiversity in the park.'"

"'The BioBlitz and Biodiversity & Cultural Festival presented an incredible opportunity to connect the community with leading scientists, international sister parks, and cultural practitioners this weekend,' said park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. 'This even embodies our National Park Service centennial mission to encourage everyone to Find Your Park – literally – by exploring and understanding our vital connection to our natural world.'


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

Fire Regime: Native Plants Help Fire-Proof Vulnerable Park Ecosystems

From the Source:

“National Park visitors are often familiar with fire’s beneficial role in maintaining ecosystem health. Many national parks routinely burn vegetation and allow some lightning fires to burn in remote areas—if they benefit the resources. Unfortunately, wildfires at Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, where native biodiversity is shrinking, have become a threat to native ecosystems. Invasion and colonization of alien tropical and sub-tropical grasses, coinciding with the ongoing eruptions of Kilauea Volcano, have caused fire frequency rates to triple since historic levels and average fire size to increase 60-fold.”

Lava, Fire, and the Forest

From the Source:

“Wildfires have a dramatic effect on Hawaiian landscapes (D’Antonio et al. 2000). Historically, wildfires were believed to be relatively small and infrequent (more than 700 years apart) in Hawaiian forests despite the presence of natural ignition sources such as lightning and lava flows (LaRosa et al. 2010). In 2002 and 2003, lava-ignited wildfires occurred in the East Rift forests of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and were presumably intensified by drought and nonnative plant species that alter fuel loads and fire behavior.”

"Photo on left: Unburned - Middle photo: Burned in 2003, photo taken in 2010 - Photo on right: Burned again in 2011"   Photo credit - The National Park Service 

"Photo on left: Unburned - Middle photo: Burned in 2003, photo taken in 2010 - Photo on right: Burned again in 2011"
Photo credit - The National Park Service 

VIDEO: Controlled Burn in Volcanoes National Park

From the Source:

“A 14-person fire crew burned a 103-acre kipuka at Kealakomowaena, located near the end of Chain of Craters Road at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Wednesday.

Park officials say the prescribed burn is intended to spark the growth of native grass, and will reveal a cultural landscape once occupied by families living in the ahupua’a of Kealakomo.

Pili grass once dominated Hawaii’s coastal areas, but is becoming increasingly rare thanks to invasive species."

Lava Field Fire Crews Struggle to Protect Forest

From the Source:

“Forty mainland firefighters are cutting a second line of defense in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park against fires started by lava flows from Kilauea volcano, the park announced.
The effort is a continuation of work under way since November that has restricted fires to the immediate vicinity of lava flows, said park spokeswoman Mardie Lane. The result has been the protection of a lowland rain forest characterized primarily by lama trees, a wood considered sacred in Hawaiian culture, she said.”

Above:  "A firefighter in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park watches as lava burns a new path through a lama tree forest this week. Newly built firebreaks and the relative resistance of this kind of forest to flames have prevented a conflagration." Photo from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

"A firefighter in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park watches as lava burns a new path through a lama tree forest this week. Newly built firebreaks and the relative resistance of this kind of forest to flames have prevented a conflagration."
Photo from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park