Oahu (Honolulu)

Strong Winds Challenge HFD During Small Sand Island Wildfire

Sand Island fire on March 9. Credit: Hawaii News Now

Sand Island fire on March 9. Credit: Hawaii News Now

Strong winds fueled a wildland fire near Sand Island Saturday.

The fire was reported just before 1:40 p.m. Smoke was visible from the nearby highway.

HFD says about 18 fire personnel responded to the incident and began battling the flames.

“Strong gusty wind conditions challenged fire fighters efforts,” HFD said in a news release.

The fire reportedly started in an empty lot known to be frequented by homeless, HFD said.

Questions Raised Over Cause of Yet Another Brush Fire in Hawaii Kai

KHON2 video screen capture of Hawaii Kai brushfire.

KHON2 video screen capture of Hawaii Kai brushfire.

It has been a scary year for Hawaii Kai residents -- more than a dozen brushfires have burned in the area this year. HWMO is currently in discussions with stakeholders and community members in Hawaii Kai to begin the Firewise Communities certification process. Grassroots, community-based organizing will be a key to keeping residents, farmers, and others in the area safe from wildfires.  

From the Source:

"The location of the fire is in the area of Niumalu Loop, near the entrance of the valley, which was the scene of a recent rash of suspicious brush fires that have been plaguing the community throughout the year."

"The two-acre fire was contained just before 2:20 a.m., and officials have deemed the cause of the fire as undetermined, but remains under investigation."

HFD Suspects Arson in Recent String of Hawaii Kai Brush Fires

Credit: Blake Kinoshita / KFVE

Credit: Blake Kinoshita / KFVE

A recent string of brush fires in Hawaii Kai has been understandably making nearby residents nervous. HWMO will be taking part in two different community events on the week of June 5th to help address concerns and offer advice on next steps for community action. Mahalo to State Senator Stanley Chang and Representative Gene Ward for the invites to the meetings and for bringing attention to this growing issue.

From the Source:

"ʻWhat's being done in Hawaii Kai is totally unacceptable and we don't wish it on any community and that's why it's got to be stopped. It's gotta be stopped now,ʻ said state Rep. Gene Ward (R) Hawaii Kai.

Ward is organizing a June 6 town hall meeting where fire officials, police and wild fire experts will provide the public with the latest details on the fires.

'There are a lot of eyes and ears watching so whoever is doing this, they're going to get caught,' he said.

Large Kamilo Nui Valley Fire in Hawaii Kai

Wildfires in Hawaii Kai have been a cause for concern of late for residents -- this being another frightening wake-up call. Be prepared and have a plan by checking out the Wildfire Lookout! homepage.


From the Source:

"A brush fire deep in the Kamilo Nui Valley in Hawaii Kai has charred roughly 20 acres and continues to burn early Thursday, the Honolulu Fire Department said. "

"Nearby residents say this fire is the largest out of a string of recent fires in the area. 

'It's been going on for two months. There are small fires, but this one is the real biggest one,' resident Carolyn Kawano said. 'It's hard to say because I know there's like, homeless up there too. So they don't know who the culprit is.'

 

Firefighters Battle Small Brush Fire on Waahila Ridge

Fire on Waahila Ridge on May 10, 2017. Credit: KHON2

Fire on Waahila Ridge on May 10, 2017. Credit: KHON2

Brush fire on Waahila Ridge, near Saint Louis Heights, on Oahu may be a sign of things to come this summer? Stay vigilant and make sure to check out Wildfire Lookout! for more information on how to prepare for wildfires.

From the Source:

"Crews received the call for the fire around 4:30 a.m. Wednesday morning, and stationed a fire monitor to watch the blaze, which was determined to be slowly moving."

Brush Fire Flares Up Across From Sandy Beach

KHON2 Screen Capture

KHON2 Screen Capture

It may be surreal to watch as horses are led through sidewalks of paved streets in an urban neighborhood, but that was the reality on Saturday, February 4th when a couple wildfires in East Oahu filled neighborhoods with smoke (and burned to the edge of a home). If you have pets or livestock on a property, follow the step-by-step evacuation plan checklist on pages 15-16 of the Ready, Set, Go! Wildland Fire Action Guide.

Personal recreational drones complicated the firefight for Honolulu Fire Department. Please make sure to keep drones out of the air during wildfires as they are a safety hazard for helicopters. A trending YouTube video is not worth risking the lives and safety of our firefighters and communities.

From the Source:

"There were tense moments for homeowners, with one house just feet away from the scorched ground. Firefighters were stationed nearby to safeguard homes.

HFD Capt. David Jenkins said the fire quickly grew “with the winds being variable and blowing in different directions, causing some impact on the fire.”

The fire was called contained at approximately 3:45 p.m. No homes were damaged or directly threatened by the fire, and there were no evacuation of residents.

Jenkins did say that the fire did go up and into Koko Crater and the stables were evacuated. None of the horses were injured."

Kapolei and Koko Head Fires Prompt Road and Trail Closures

Credit: Branden Lohrey / Hawaii News Now

Credit: Branden Lohrey / Hawaii News Now

Wildfires can have impacts even on your favorite hiking and recreational destinations. You can help protect your favorite places by volunteering with groups that hold flammable/invasive vegetation removal days or if there is not a group already doing it, a great place to start is to group up with others who want to protect those areas.

From the Source:

“One fire closed lanes in Kapolei, while a separate fire shut down the Koko Head hiking trail and gun range.

Eastbound lanes on Farrington Highway were closed near Honokai hale and Kalaeloa due to a fire that broke out around noon Sunday. That fire has since been contained.

Traffic was slow-going as east bound lanes were rerouted. 

The Koko Head hike and gun range was also closed as firefighters battled a brush fire that also started around noon Sunday. 

Witnesses in the area say that police blocked the entrance to the popular trail and did not let anyone enter the hike.”

How to Enjoy Fourth of July Fireworks and Firecrackers

Credit: HWMO

Here is some important County-by-County information on July 4th Weekend fireworks permitting and public shows. Fireworks are a common cause of brushfires in dry, grassy areas - attend and enjoy public fireworks displays to maximize safety and fire protection.

From the Source: 

  • "Fireworks can be dangerous, causing serious burns and eye injuries.
  • Young children and fireworks do not mix. Never give fireworks, even sparklers to young children. Sparklers burn at temperatures of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Older children should only use fireworks under the direct supervision of an adult.
  • Always read and follow all warnings and instructions listed by the manufacturer for the safe use and handling of fireworks.
  • Make sure you have a clear, flat area to use the fireworks; away from structures, dry grass or brush, or other readily ignitable materials.
  • Have a water hose or bucket of water readily available in case of a fire."

Portion of Farrington Highway Reopens After Suspicious Brush Fires

Screencap from KHON2 video.

Any tips on the suspicious brushfires along Farrington Highway near Honokai Hale? Please alert the police. 

From the Source:

"Honolulu police have reopened the right westbound lane on Farrington Highway at Laaloa Street near Honokai Hale that was closed due to multiple suspicious brush fires."

"Firefighters say crews battled three brush fires located on the side of the road, one that was 10 by 10 feet, a second that was 100 by 50 feet and a third that was 200 by 100 feet."

Firefighters Contain Brush Fire Along Waialae Nui Ridge

“Because of drought conditions, so far this year over 10,000 acres have already burned from brush fires — twice the number of acres burned during all of 2015.”

Firefighters are thus working as hard as ever to protect communities from dangerous wildfires, including this fire in Kahala that burned close to homes on a steep ridge. A rogue drone was flown in the operation area, prompting HFD and police to call on the drone operator to land. "Having a drone in the air just isn't safe" for firefighters. Please refrain from using drones in areas where firefighters are fighting a blaze. A GoPro video is not worth risking the safety of our firefighters. Please share this message.

From the Source:

“’I thought the fire was going the other way, but it came as close as my property line,’ said Waialae Nui resident Edwin Motoshige. ‘Firemen were here so thankfully, yeah, it was okay.’

‘During our operations, some of our firefighters noticed a drone in the air kind of hovering around right where we were working in our operational areas,’ he said.

Once HFD found the drone’s operator, police were called and the drone was forced to land. With Air One overhead and crews on the ground, Mejia said having a drone in the air just isn’t safe.

‘Sometimes it gets too close in the way of what we’re trying to do and if there’s a failure of the drone, who knows what could happen,’ he said.”

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.

 

KHON2:

“‘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.”

HPR:

“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.”

 

Hawaii Faces Increased Wildfire Risk This Summer

Nationally, Hawaii is on the map this year (along with Alaska and the Southwest) as being an area of "increased danger for significant wildland fires from May through August" according to a new report from the National Interagency Fire Center.

Our partners Clay Trauernicht, from University of Hawaii CTAHR Cooperative Extension, and Captain David Jenkins, from Honolulu Fire Department, do a great job in this Hawaii News Now report to explain the current drought and wildfire situation and what that means for Hawaii visitors and residents.  Stay tuned for the statewide wildfire prevention and preparedness campaign set to launch real soon!

From the Source:

'We've sort of been tracking the progression of the drought, so we're pretty well aware that we're facing an above-average fire season for the summer,' said Clay Trauernicht, a wildfire specialist with the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension.

'We're seeing reports of El Nino subsiding, but what that means for us is, it's sort of leading us right into our summertime dry season. So even though it's going to look like a normal summer, we have this big rainfall deficit from the wintertime,' Trauernicht said.

Several agencies are working together and will soon be launching a new wildfire prevention and preparedness campaign to help keep communities safe.

'There's a lot of things you can do both to prevent fires from starting, as well as reducing fire risks around your homes,' Trauernicht said."

Drought Conditions Fueling Brush Fire Potential

Screenshot from KHON2 video.

Screenshot from KHON2 video.

A statewide drought means more wildfires. Check out this KHON2 video on the current state of the drought, what this means for wildfire potential, and tips for making sure your family is safe from wildfire.

From the Source:

"So how can you prepare?

Fire officials say if you live in an area near lots of dry grass you should create a 30-foot safety zone around your home.

You should make sure to remove leaves or other combustibles that could help the fire spread.

Also, make sure your family has an evacuation plan in case you have to leave your home.

'Just a few weeks of dry season or very dry weather can bring water content down on the vegetation and could bring your home into harms way,' said Jenkins."

Hawaii's Wildland Firefighters Need More Resources

Three DOFAW firefighters watch as smoke billows from a distance. Credit: DOFAW.

Front page headlines!

With the ever-growing problem of wildfires statewide, Hawaii's first responders have faced numerous challenges accessing adequate resources to ensure communities and natural resources are out of harm's way. This is a great article that highlights the underlying issues of wildfire in Hawaii, the current realities of wildfire suppression across the state, and tactics that may help alleviate these issues. The answer: improved resources for wildland firefighting and a focus on pre-fire mitigation.

From the Source:

"Experts say both the frequency and size of wildfires have steadily grown in recent decades as changing weather patterns and invading fire-prone, non-native grasses and shrubs have put Hawaii’s forests and natural areas at greater risk of fire.

Data from a recent Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization study indicate that the average area burned each year in Hawaii has climbed by 400 percent over the past century.

The study also shows that an average of more than 17,000 acres has burned each year over the past decade, with some years exceeding even the most fire-prone Western states.

In fact, a greater percentage of Hawaii is under high risk of wildfire than any of the other 16 westernmost states, according to an assessment by the Council of Western State Foresters."

"Clay Trauernicht, extension fire specialist with the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said the state needs to provide more realistic funding levels to help protect the state’s natural areas in the face of a rapidly growing wildfire threat."

"Cutting firebreaks, reducing vegetation and brush, and working with landowners to provide access for water and vehicles help to minimize the size of fires, their impacts and their potential danger to firefighters, he said."

"Trauernicht said the state should consider establishing a full-time team dedicated solely to wildfires. Not only would it improve the division’s initial response, but the team could also conduct pre- and post-fire activities when not responding to fires, he said."

Parched: Driest January on Record for Parts of West Hawaii

"Charred earth from the recent fire near Palamanui is seen along side of dry grass from the persisting drought in North Kona. (Laura Shimabuku/West Hawaii Today)"

What is on pace for the 2nd strongest El Nino on record is not good news for those worried about wildfire. The key take away is that even if your area is considered "wet side", when there is no rain, the rainforest can burn. 

Here's a news piece with quotes from our Executive Director, Elizabeth Pickett, and a long-time partner of ours, Jen Lawson, who directs the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative.

From the Source:

"The Pacific is experiencing what will likely pan out to be the second strongest El Nino on record, behind only 1997-98. True to pattern, a snuffing out of the normal trade wind pattern and its accompanying showers are following the El Nino. If the past is any indication and long-term predictions hold up, there may be no relief in sight through April."

"West Hawaii had a very wet summer, leading to high loads of vegetation which have now dried out, causing concern for fire management officials. In Waikoloa, expanses of invasive buffelgrass and fountain grass have become parched, said Jen Lawson, who directs the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative.

'We’ve had no precipitation at the forest in more than 12 weeks,' she said. 'Wildfire is what we are thinking most about now.”

Kodama said light winds have helped spare dry areas from fast-spreading fires. But that could change as winds pick up going into spring and conditions continue to dry out, he said.

Elizabeth Pickett, executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, said her group will be stepping up its fire safety outreach in the face of the drought.

'We have a pretty high hazard out there; now is time to be proactive and really be aware of the fire issue,' Pickett said. 'We’re getting very concerned.'"

Honolulu Firefighters Kick Off Prevention Week with Family Fun Event

Credit: KHON2

Great job by Honolulu FIre Department and Federal Fire Department of getting this year's Fire Prevention Week message out to the public.

From the Source:

"HFD hosted a full day of fire safety activities and games, as well as prizes and interactive displays.

Smokey Bear and Sparky the Fire Dog also made appearance.

'Our biggest thing is to test your smoke detectors once a month and also to create a family fire evacuation plan, so that’s what we’re stressing today,' said Federal Fire inspector Angela Sanders."