Maui

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.

Fire Burns 3 Acres by Kapalua Airport

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 9.43.31 AM.png

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.

Fire Near Keanuhea Street and Kula Highway Extinguished

Screen Shot 2019-04-08 at 9.47.51 AM.png

From the Source:

Maui firefighters were called to reports of a fire at 8:50 a.m. Tuesday which was  located in the brush area between Keanuhea Street and Kula Highway.

Firefighters from Makawao and Kahului responded.

Once on scene, crews found what appeared to by a makeshift campsite completely burned.

Air 1 was called to assist with water drops because of the remote location which was very difficult to access with firefighting vehicles. The fire was quickly contained and later declared extinguished around noon. 

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.”

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.

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.

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.

A Warming Planet Could Trigger More Intense Wildfire Season in Hawaii

Credit: National Park Service

Credit: National Park Service

Over the last several years, HWMO has prioritized adaptive measures such as Firewise Communities and strategic, cross-boundary vegetation management planning to ready areas for the rapidly changing conditions causing more and larger wildfires in Hawaii. The gravity of the situation is real with climate change, but there is so much we can do in our own communities to prepare for wildfires and other climate hazards. Learn how by visiting our Take Action page and the Wildfire Lookout! page.

Check out this excellent article with some of our close partners, including Dr. Clay Trauernicht and Michael Walker, who were interviewed and data that HWMO was instrumental in laying the groundwork for — the statewide wildfire history database we produced with our fire agency partners. Although sobering, it is great to see this data put to use for a better understanding of how climate change affects Hawaii locally.


From the Source:

In Hawaii, wildfires generally ignite during the dry season, typically between May and November, when it's hotter, drier and windier outside.

But models show that the drier leeward areas, where fires are more frequent, will see even less rainfall as a result of climate change, exacerbating drought conditions and expanding the length of Hawaii's dry season.

That means more favorable conditions for brush fires to ignite.

And non-native grasslands and shrubs — which cover nearly a fourth of Hawaii's total land area — are highly adapted to fire, meaning they thrive when they burn and come back really quickly, researchers say. And the drier it is, the harder it is for forests to recover in those spots.

Hotter days could spell longer-lasting brush fires, meaning more hours for firefighters and greater potential for damage to infrastructure.

And it's only going to get hotter. A regional NOAA report estimates that in Hawaii, temperatures are expected to rise by 4 to 5 degrees by 2085 — under a worst case emission scenario.

"If you have hotter days, the conditions that are going to promote your most active fires — like the hottest, windiest conditions — have the potential to last longer for hours within a span of a day," Trauernicht said, pointing to the Makaha fire that continued burning in the early evening, when temperatures are normally dropping and humidity levels usually go up.

Fire Is the One Hawaii Disaster We Can Avoid

The August 2018 wildfires in Waianae Valley. Credit: Clay Trauernicht

The August 2018 wildfires in Waianae Valley. Credit: Clay Trauernicht

An excellent article by Dr. Clay Trauernicht, wildland fire specialist of University of Hawaii CTAHR Cooperative Extension and Pacific Fire Exchange.

Not only does he explain why wildfires in Hawaii have burned 30,000 acres in August 2018, (more than double the annual average), but that it was predictable and there is much people can do to prevent wildfires. Dr. Trauernicht specifically sites the Wildfire LOOKOUT! tips for wildfire prevention.

To learn more about what you can do to protect your home and community from wildfire, visit HawaiiWildfire.org/lookout

From the Source:

Vegetation may be the most problematic issue facing fire management in Hawaii. Simply put, our communities and forests now exist amid an ocean of fire-prone grasslands and shrublands — about a million acres statewide. This is mostly a consequence of benign neglect as the value of real estate outweighs the value of maintaining production landscapes. Our agricultural and ranching footprint has declined by more than 60 percent across the state….

So what can we do about it? Awareness and education is the first step. Multiple state and county agencies and non-profits are working on this via the Hawaii Wildfire Lookout! Campaign, spearheaded by the Department of Land and Natural Resources and Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization. Fire prevention education can reduce accidental fires. Homes can be “hardened” to reduce the risk of loss. Communities can become “firewise” and organize to take actions such as increasing access for firefighters and reducing hazardous fuels near homes.

Vegetation is in some sense the simplest issue to tackle because it is the only fire hazard we can directly manage.  Yet it is also the most challenging due to the scale of the problem — the million acres of grasslands and shrublands across the state. There are multiple solutions for reducing risk in these fuels: fuel breaks, targeted grazing, prescribed fire, the restoration of agricultural and native ecosystems. There are also regulatory measures that can help such as firewise building and development codes.

Check out this letter to the editor from a former Firewise Co-Chair for Launiupoko, Ms. Linda Jenkins, who talks about their Firewise outreach efforts as a pathway forward.

”We completed assessments and provided all our neighbors with tips on how to make their homes and properties fire wise. An extensive public education campaign was conducted and we received our Firewise certification. We circulated tips on how to build a home and lay out a property to reduce fire risk. We also circulated tips on how to make your existing property and already built home safer.

This was successful in that many people made simple changes to their properties. I was also on the board at Makila and we maintained the sides of the bike path to create a fire break and kept our grass verges green.”

Repeated Natural Disasters Pummel Hawaii’s Farms, Affecting Macadamia Nuts, Taro, Papaya, Flower Harvests

“An image by NOAA’s GOES-15 satellite shows Hurricane Lane when it was about 300 miles south of Hawaii's Big Island on Aug. 22. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)”

“An image by NOAA’s GOES-15 satellite shows Hurricane Lane when it was about 300 miles south of Hawaii's Big Island on Aug. 22. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)”

Farmers in the Pacific on the front-lines of climate-related natural disasters such as cyclones and wildfires. We must do all we can to ensure our farmlands are protected from these growing threats to our food and people’s livelihoods.

If you are a farmer or own/operate large lands in Hawaii and other Pacific Islands, check out the Pacific Fire Exchange pre-fire planning resources: http://www.pacificfireexchange.org/research-publications/category/pre-fire-planning?rq=pre-fire%20plan

From the Source:

As Hawaii begins to recover from the tropical cyclone that dumped more than three feet of rain onto the Big Island last week, farmers here are just starting to assess the damage to their crops. Lane landed yet another blow to Hawaii’s agriculture industry after an already difficult year of reckoning with Mother Nature. Flooding, excess moisture and pounding rains could hurt macadamia nut, coffee and flower harvests for farmers on the east side of the island, which bore the brunt of the storm.

Lane also impacted small farms on the island of Maui, where the storm’s winds fanned and spread wildfires across hundreds of acres in Lahaina.

In the days leading up to the hurricane, beekeeper Eldon Dorsett prepared his bee hives for the coming weather, putting heavy weights on the top of the boxes to keep them from blowing away.

Dorsett arrived at the farm Saturday morning and found 15 of his hives burned to a crisp — the only evidence of their existence was a few nails and screws on the still-smoldering ground.

“It was a rough day,” Dorsett said. “The farm was like the day after Armageddon.”

“No matter what happens, we need to keep moving forward,” said Haraguchi-Nakayama, whose family operates Hanalei Taro. “People in Hawaii are resilient by coming together as a community during times of crisis. Farmers are vulnerable to so many things beyond our control. Farmers need to be resilient in order to continue farming.”

Brush Fire Threatens Homes in Maui as Hurricane Lane Downgrades to Category 1

“Hurricane Lane, which was just downgraded to a Category 1 storm, is still very dangerous because of the extreme rainfall. But ironically, Maui could use the rain. (Video by Don McCuaig/YouTube)”

“Hurricane Lane, which was just downgraded to a Category 1 storm, is still very dangerous because of the extreme rainfall. But ironically, Maui could use the rain. (Video by Don McCuaig/YouTube)”

When natural hazards collide - Hurricane Lane has brought the winds and fueled fires in West Maui. We are wishing for everyone’s safety there and across the state.

From the Source:

Then in the morning hours, a new threat emerged in Maui - brush fires starting in Lahaina and moving up the west side of the island. The winds from the hurricane and dry conditions were fueling these fires.

ABC7 Meteorologist Mike Nicco says as the hurricane comes closer to Maui, those winds will pick up. "A hurricane is coming, the last thing you want is rain because you know there's going to be flooding," Nicco said. "You've already seen the flooding on the Big Island and that's what's coming, but to help out that fire, you could use some rain and so far they haven't seen much."

One woman was treated for burns and some residents in Kaanapali and Lahaina were evacuated, including former Bay Area news photographer Don McCuaig. He lives near the area where the fire is now spreading in Kaanapali Hillside, and shared video of the blaze.

"The fire is literally going horizontally," McCuaig said. "They have evacuated everybody out. Our street is being evacuated."

20 Acre Fire Near Auwahi Windfarm on Maui

The fire occurred in the vicinity of the Auwahi Wind Farm located in leeward Haleakala.

The fire occurred in the vicinity of the Auwahi Wind Farm located in leeward Haleakala.

We are glad all are okay at Auwahi Wind. They have been a great partner in Kahikinui's Firewise Community efforts. Recently, they contributed $10,000 to the Hawaiian homestead community for a new community entrance and fuels reduction.

From the Source:

The Piʻilani Highway (Hwy 31) at Mile Marker 20 in ʻUlupalakua is now OPEN.  The road was temporarily closed in both directions for about an hour and a half while crews responded to a brush fire in the area of the Auwahi Wind Farm.

The Conversation: Fire Campaign - Look Out for Wildfires!

Credit: Flickr

Credit: Flickr

Check out our Executive Director, Elizabeth Pickett, on Hawaii's popular radio program The Conversation talk about Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization spearheading a messaging campaign called Wildfire LOOKOUT!

From the Source:

This has been a wild few weeks. We are talking wildfires...from California to Oahu’s west side, to the Big Island where firefighters are still working to protect special ecological areas, cultural heritage sites from being destroyed. A management team from California which has been helping the National Park Service as most of the blaze is within park boundaries.  This week the Hawaii Wildfire organization is launching a campaign to get the public to take steps now to prevent the start a wildfire.

Weather Officials Predict Increased Brush Fire Activity for Hawaii

Click above to watch the short Star Advertiser video.

Click above to watch the short Star Advertiser video.

Learn how you can prepare by visiting the Wildfire LOOKOUT! page.

From the Source:

Weather officials expect more brush fires in the coming months as Hawaii enters the peak of fire season.

Leeward Oahu has seen below normal rainfall levels this summer with just .02 inches on average in June, compared to the normal of about half an inch — the most recent data available, said Derek Wroe, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

“It’s usually a dry time of the year to begin with, but it’s definitely below normal,” he said.

”We tend to get a lot of growth in the brush … especially across the Leeward portions of the state. There’s a lot more fuel available,” Wroe said. “When you get a combination of these hot and dry conditions with a good amount of fuel that’s ready to burn and then largely we’ve had some fairly strong tradewinds, it creates a situation where you have an elevated fire danger.”

Maui Brush Fire Scorches 10 acres at Kula Agricultural Park

"Maui firefighters are battling a brush fire in Kula Agriculture Park on Sunday." Credit: Maui Fire Department

"Maui firefighters are battling a brush fire in Kula Agriculture Park on Sunday." Credit: Maui Fire Department

From the Source:

Maui fire officials say that a brush fire on Sunday has scorched 10 acres of land in the area of Pulehu Road near Kula Agriculture Park.

MFD crews responded to the fire at around 2:15 p.m. and arrived to find an active fire in dry brush in the area. Firefighters are having difficulty putting out the fires due to shifting winds, according to officials.

Maui Lani Brush Fire Burns ½ Acre

Credit: Maui Fire Department

Credit: Maui Fire Department

From the Source:

Maui firefighters were called to reports of a brush fire located between the Maui Lani Golf Course and Makali’i Street in Kahului at around 10:10 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. Engine 10 and Tanker 10 from Kahului responded.

On scene, crews found a working brush fire located about 40 feet behind homes on Makali’i Street and running towards the golf course. Crews were able to access the fire through an access off of Kuihelani Highway and quickly achieved containment.

Over $1 million: Cost of Maui Brush Fire That Moved to Destroy Two Homes

Credit: KITV4

Credit: KITV4

Our hearts go out to those that suffered home damage or loss on Wednesday afternoon. Aside from the economic loss, we can only imagine the feeling of losing your possessions, your home, and the time that will be spent with the recovery process. 

Make sure to check out the ReadySetGo! Action Guide to learn the easy steps you can take to significantly reduce your risk of home loss in a wildfire. 

2,500 Acres Burned, Winds Fuel Fast Moving Pukalani Fire

Mahalo to the firefighters who have worked tirelessly to put the large Pukalani fire out. July 4th (and New Years) are the busiest times of the year for brushfires -- help do your part by preventing wildfires to make the jobs of our firefighters easier and keep them out of harm's way.

From the Source:

A total of 2,500 acres of fallow sugar cane and brush had burned as of 7 p.m. The brush fire was initially reported at 2:30 p.m. and remains active, but crews have made “significant progress,” according to an update by Maui Fire Services Chief Rylan Yatsushiro.

At 3:55 a.m. on Wednesday July 4, 2018, a separate brush fire was reported near the Kūihelani Highway and Honoapiʻilani Highway near Māʻalaea. Fire officials say crews from Wailuku, Kīhei, Wailea and Lahaina were able to control an approximately 3-4 acre brush fire from spreading.

Credit: Augustine Colebrook

Credit: Augustine Colebrook

Credit: Robin Pilus

Credit: Robin Pilus

Vehicle Accident Sparks Brushfire in Pulehu, Maui

Satellite image of a section of Pulehu Road on Maui.

Satellite image of a section of Pulehu Road on Maui.

Roadside ignitions are a common way fires are started in Hawaii. Be careful on the roads and make sure to park only in paved or mowed areas. We are glad to hear that there were no injuries from this incident.

From the Source:

Maui firefighters have nearly contained a four-acre brush fire sparked by a vehicle accident in Pulehu this afternoon.

A two-car collision on Pulehu Road appears to have started the fire, the Maui Fire Department said in a news release.