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Drought Kicks In - Wildfires Already on Kauai

Waimea Canyon Fire, 2017. Credit: The Garden Island / Mark Stainaker

Waimea Canyon Fire, 2017. Credit: The Garden Island / Mark Stainaker

Drought conditions are kicking in across the Hawaiian Islands, including on Kauai, where multiple brushfires have already burned. 75% of wildfires in Hawaii occur when the drought monitor is lit up. Now is the time to be ready using your Ready, Set, Go! Wildland Fire Action Guide and Wildfire LOOKOUT! tools.

From the Source:

While recovery from April 2018 floods continues on the North Shore, the Westside is looking at severe drought conditions through September.

“We’re already seeing agriculture impacts, especially for the ranchers and we’re expecting a more active brushfire season,” said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hydrologist, Kevin Kodama in a Wednesday press conference.

HFD Responds to Five Brush Fire Calls in One Day on Oahu

Credit: KHON2

Credit: KHON2

"I would say that generally it's a little early in the season. But when you have the growth with the rain that we've had, as long as it's there. It's ready to burn," said Scot Seguirant, HFD.

Now is the time to prepare. Check out Wildfire LOOKOUT! for tips and tricks on preventing and preparing for wildfire.

From the Source:

Additional ways you can prevent these kinds of fire include only lighting matches or other kindling when there aren't windy conditions, and being aware of where you throw lighted cigarettes. Having a shovel, water and fire retardent in your yard for use can also be useful when a fire comes near your home. Finally you can protect your home and family by simply being aware of what may cause accidental fires and limiting risk factors such as a lighted barbeque pit or campfire.

Hawaii Wildfire Potential Above Normal April Through July

month1_outlook.png

Be vigilant - wildfire conditions are ripe for wildfire these next few months in Hawaii. Are you prepared? Check out the Ready, Set, Go! guide and Wildfire LOOKOUT! for tips on how to prepare for and prevent wildfires.

From the Source:

Hawaii and Puerto Rico will continue to see slightly elevated potential early in the outlook period until the impacts of tropical weather conditions begin to be felt.

How One Homeowner Saved His House from the Carr Fire

Credit: FEMA

Credit: FEMA

Investing in wildfire preparedness works. Check out this wildfire risk reduction success from a FEMA excerpt from Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.

From the Source:


“Some of the wildfire mitigation measures he took during construction and maintained over the years to make his home fire-resilient included:

  • A well-maintained, simple Class A metal roof.

  • A non-combustible zone (3-5 feet wide) around the outside of the home that helped prevent embers from landing in close-by vegetation.

  • Pruned trees and low-growing cactus and succulents.

  • Boxed-in or soffited eaves with venting located at the outside edge. This makes ember intrusion more difficult.

  • Well-maintained stucco siding.

  • Accessible water and hoses labeled with reflective signs for firefighters.”

2018 Has Been a Wild Year for Wildfires, Far Surpassing Numbers Since 2015

"HFD keeps up with a busy season for brush fires in the summer months." Credit: Hawaii News Now

"HFD keeps up with a busy season for brush fires in the summer months." Credit: Hawaii News Now

2018 wildfire season has kept firefighters busy, scorched native forests, forced numerous evacuations, burned homes and businesses...and it is only August.

As Hurricane Lane approaches, threatening to add another impact to the list, post-fire flooding and landslides, we want to remind you that there is a lot you can do to protect your home and family from wildfires. Great tips provided by HPD, aligned with Wildfire LOOKOUT! info.

From the Source:

Combined, more than 30,000 acres total across Hawaii have been blackened by wildfires this year alone. That's compared to 2017 where nearly 7,700 acres were burned, according to the Pacific Fire Exchange's 2017 wildfire summary.

Capt. Seguirant says the easiest way to reduce the risk is by maintaining homes and yards in dry summer months, and keeping brush trimmed back. It's also important to clear porches, gutters and declutter outdoor spaces. 

"Just remove any wood piles, lumber, anything that can actually catch on fire," he said. "You want to make sure you put those things away. Trim back your fire break. Make sure there's 10 to 30 feet of cleared brush between your home."

Falling embers could land and could spark a fire, he said. While grilling outdoors, ensure proper safety precautions are in place and there is no dry brush around. Dispose of hot coal properly, in fire-safe bins provided at many county parks.

HFD also reminds everyone to have an emergency evacuation kit and a plan ready just in case wildfires threaten homes.

"Be ready to evacuate. Get your 'Go Bag.' When you get the call to quickly leave, at that point, belongings and material things can be replaced," Capt. Seguirant said. 

He says before evacuating, secure your home by locking doors and closing windows to prevent embers from entering the house, and possibly causing your home to go up in flames. 

Drought in West Hawaii Increases Risk of Wildfires Running Rampant Already

"North Kona, seen from the Highway 190 scenic lookout, is brown and dry from the ongoing drought." (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

"North Kona, seen from the Highway 190 scenic lookout, is brown and dry from the ongoing drought." (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Did you know 99 percent of wildfires in Hawaii are started by people? This West Hawaii Today article written by reporter Max Dible, explores the effects of drought on wildfire. 

Check out HawaiiWildfire.org/lookout for tips on what you can do to help protect your home and family from wildfire.

From the Source:

Tamara Hynd, program and operations assistant with the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, said wildfires have already burned through roughly 34,000 acres across the state, more than double the yearly average of 17,000 with more than four months of a dry year yet to go.

“Drought always plays a factor because the longer it goes on, the more intense it gets,” she said. “Your larger fuels begin to dry out more and more.”

Some advice she offered to mitigate risk is to avoid parking on dry grass because heat from exhaust systems can ignite it, or to keep heavy machinery like welding equipment and weed whackers away from dry areas, as such work can result in sparks that start fires.

Hynd said it was repair to heavy equipment that was the catalyst for the wildfire that ignited in Volcano earlier this month.

People who keep their grass short, their rain gutters free of debris and who have a water source and/or fire extinguisher on hand are also less likely to cause accidental wildfires, she said.

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.

Waianae Wildfire Destroys One Family's Home - Fundraiser Launched

Credit: KHON2

Credit: KHON2

A resilient spirit rises from the ashes. This hard-working family who lost their home in the Waianae Fire are showing what it means to stay positive even in the face of incredible trauma and loss.

Learn how you can protect your home and family with a few simple steps by downloading the Hawaii ReadySetGo! Wildland Fire Action Guide.

From the Source:

Turns out farm land wasn't the only thing destroyed by the weekend's wildfires in West Oahu. One family says they lost the place they called home.    

Originally from Thailand, the Jairuan family lived and worked on one of of the farm lands. While they lost their home and everything in it, they're grateful no one was seriously hurt. 

All the family can do right now is rely on the support of friends and family as they pick up the pieces, but Jairuan is rising above the ashes and staying positive. 

"This happened for a reason. This window is closed and the other one will open. Something will happen, something good will happen," he said.

Jairuan's friends have started a fundraiser for the family, to view please click here.

Waianae Brush Fire Damages 17-Lots at Waianae Agricultural Park

Credit: KITV4

Credit: KITV4

It pains us to hear this news - we know how much sweat, toil, and care goes into farming. If you are a farmer who was impacted by the fire, we are with you. HDOA's Agricultural Loan Division is also offering the farmers financial assistance since the state essentially owns the park.

If you are a farmer or rancher or manage large areas of land, the ReadySetGo! wildfire preparedness guide has a detailed step-by-step guide on how to prepare your lands for wildfire. Also, Pacific Fire Exchange has great resources for developing your own pre-fire  plans.

From the Source:

The brush fire in Waianae damaged all 17 state-lots at Wai'anae Agricultural Park. 

The 150-acre park is home to crops like tomatoes, kale and palms. After the fire ripped through Waianae Valley, what's left are its charred remains. 

The Waianae Ag Park is one of 10 in the state of Hawaii and one of four on Oahu. The state's Department of Agriculture says all 17 lots in Waianae suffered damages in the brush fire: four are total losses.

Apart from crops, several structures on those farm lots were destroyed. Some even lost vehicles, tools and equipment in the fire. The state says irrigation systems were also severely damaged

Waikoloa Brush Fire Continues to Burn, Scorching 3,000 acres

"A large fire is blanketing the air in Waikoloa with heavy smoke." Credit: Hawaii News Now

"A large fire is blanketing the air in Waikoloa with heavy smoke." Credit: Hawaii News Now

We are thinking of you, Waikoloa. Be safe and stay aware of your surroundings. A big mahalo to all of the firefighters from county, state, and federal agencies who are working tirelessly to protect the community!

Should an evacuation occur, which is not expected at this time, CERT members would help notify residents to evacuate by going door-to-door and also with a megaphone. However, relying on your own judgment is critical during a fire. If conditions do not look favorable, whether the spread of the fire or ember showers or smoke...leaving early is the best option. 

Here are some helpful resources for you during the fire, but also use these to plan for the next inevitable fire. Waikoloa is one of the most fire-prone regions in the entire state.

How to protect yourself from smoke inhalation during a fire:

http://www.hawaiiwildfire.org/fire-resource-library-blog/air-oasis-family-fire-guides?rq=smoke

Your all-in-one wildfire preparedness guide:

http://www.hawaiiwildfire.org/fire-resource-library-blog/rsg-your-personal-wildland-fire-action-guide

From the Source:

Hawaii Island firefighters are still working to contain a brush fire that burned at least 3,000 acres in Waikoloa on Wednesday.

"Hawaii County Fire is reporting heavy smoke blowing into Waikoloa Village. We ask people to monitor air conditions and if you have respiratory issues please take necessary precautions," officials said. 

While most of the road blocks have been lifted, Waikoloa Road is still closed between Mamalahoa and Paniolo Avenue.

Why Some Communities Recover Better After Natural Disasters

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

HWMO believes strongly in the importance of working together as a pathway for communities to become more resilient in the face of growing wildfires in Hawaii and the Western Pacific. We use national frameworks such as Firewise Communities, Fire Adapted Communities, ReadySetGo!, and Western Cohesive Strategy and apply them at the local level to bring neighbors together.

The science is there to back this up, too! A research team from Northeastern University has found that post-disaster anxiety from recent climate-related disasters was reduced solely because of social ties. "Individuals who had more friends, neighbors, and relatives nearby did far better than more isolated people," said Dr. Daniel Aldrich, professor and director of the Security and Resilience Program at Northeastern.

From the Source:

"TG: How can people become more resilient?
DA: To become more resilient, my team and I have put together a package of policies that we're encouraging neighborhoods and communities around the world (e.g. Wellington, NZ, Cambridge, MA, San Francisco, CA, etc.) to try out. These include strengthening ties with neighbors, holding regular community events, engaging citizens in every planning and zoning event possible, creating local communities, and building spaces that encourage social interaction."

Every Second Counts! Home Escape Planning Is Critical in a Fire Situation

MFD fire safety presentation. Credit: Lahaina News

MFD fire safety presentation. Credit: Lahaina News

Important tips on evacuation planning from our friends at Maui Fire Department. You can find more tips and evacuation planning templates in the Ready, Set, Go! Wildland Fire Action Guide - Hawaii version.

From the Source: 

"Developing and practicing a home escape plan is like building muscle memory," said Jeffrey Murray, fire chief of the Maui Fire Department.

"That pre-planning is what everyone will draw upon to snap into action and escape as quickly as possible in the event of a fire."

"In support of Fire Prevention Week, all Maui County households are encouraged to develop a plan together and practice it. A home escape plan includes working smoke alarms on every level of the home, in every bedroom and near all sleeping areas.

It also includes two ways out of every room - usually a door and a window - with a clear path to an outside meeting place (such as a tree, light pole or mailbox) that's a safe distance from the home."

HWMO Highlight on the Conversation

Credit: National Park Service

Credit: National Park Service

Thank you to The Conversation on HPR for highlighting the wildfire issue and having HWMO's Elizabeth Pickett as a guest on the show! Peak wildfire season is not over (and in Hawaii, fire season is all year long) so stay vigilant, have a plan, and evacuate early.

From the Source:

"Hawaii has its own problem with wildfires, and each summer seems to bring a rash of fires that are mostly caused by people – some accidental, many of them deliberate. The Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization compiles the available data about each year’s wildfires."

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."

Firefighters Battle Wildfires Across the Western U.S. and Canada

TIME video screen capture

TIME video screen capture

Another day to be thankful for firefighters and all they do in yet another busy wildfire season across the continent. Remember to GO! early if I fire is in your area. Leaving early alleviates traffic jams, creates safer access for firefighters, and prevents valuable first response resources from being used for search and rescue efforts. Hawaii residents, more information available in the Ready, Set, Go! Wildland Fire Action Guide and Wildfire Lookout!  

"Firefighters on Monday made progress against wildfires burning across numerous states in the hot, dry West.

That included California, where slightly cooler temperatures and diminishing winds helped firefighters as they battled several wildfires that have forced thousands to flee their homes in both ends of the state."

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)

10 Acre Brush Fire in Kona Shuts Down Queen Kaahumanu Highway and Henry Street

Credit: Luahiwa Lee Loy Namahoe / KHON2

With the entire Big Island currently in abnormally dry to moderate drought conditions, a busy spring and summer may lie ahead for our firefighters. Lighten your landscaping through the recommendations made in the ReadySetGo! Wildland Fire Action Guide this spring and make sure to take action this Wildfire Preparedness Day, May 6! You can enter our statewide contest by posting your photos to social media with #wildfirereadyhawaii or by submitting your photos to admin@hawaiiwildfire.org.

From the Source:

"A fire across 10 acres of brush makai of Queen Kaahumanu Highway shut down southbound lanes on that road and a stretch of Henry Street for part of Thursday afternoon.

No injuries or structural damage was reported as a result of the blaze, said West Hawaii Battalion Chief Brian Cushnie."

Advancing FAC in Hawaii: Increasing Awareness, Thinking Both Short and Long Term and...Goats?

Click to Read the Blog Post

Click to Read the Blog Post

In 2015, we began working with several communities statewide on grassroots-level community wildfire protection efforts, primarily through Firewise’s communities recognition program. Only a few years later, we’re happy to say that our communities are seeing some great success! Find out how HWMO and its partners are working with communities to advance Fire Adapted Community goals in the latest highlight on the FAC Learning Network blog.

From the Source:

"These recommendations have already encouraged Firewise committees to start thinking outside of the box. For example, two years ago, Waikoloa Village received a fuels reduction grant from the USDA Forest Service. The village used the funds to hire a goat-grazing contractor to reduce flammable vegetation on vacant lots. As phase two of the project, the community will be installing permanent fence posts to allow for more regular grazing. Eventually, they may transform these lots into a multi-use area where goats continue to graze and the community also grows citrus trees.

These communities are also engaging residents through outreach. A few months ago, the Launiupoko Firewise committee sent over 300 copies of ReadySetGo! Wildland Fire Action Guides to residents. This spring, they will be hiring a contractor to remove flammable vegetation along an established bike path. Kahikinui, a small homestead in one of the most remote areas on Maui, worked tirelessly last year to engage neighboring large landowners and various agencies in their Firewise efforts. Their persistence and creativity led to a collaborative fuels mitigation project that received funding from the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and a local wind farm."

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."

'Good Neighbors' Help to Fight Fires in Remote Kahikinui Homestead

Excellent, in-depth article of the recent PFX Field Tour of Kahikinui, the community's history and past struggles with large wildfires, and the bright future ahead of them for their preparedness efforts. Mahalo to the Maui News for the great coverage and to Leeward Haleakala Watershed Partnership and Pacific Fire Exchange for coordinating the field tour.

From the Source:

"There have been some smaller meetings with the community and adjacent landowners in the past, but this was the first time so many people with such a broad range of experience and interest in collaboration came together that I'm aware of," said Andrea Buckman, coordinator for the Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership, who organized the event along with the Pacific Fire Exchange.

Kahikinui resident Ainoa Kaiaokamalie and others joined Pacific Fire Exchange, Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, and a variety of other stakeholders for the field tour. Photo Credit: The Maui News

Kahikinui resident Ainoa Kaiaokamalie and others joined Pacific Fire Exchange, Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, and a variety of other stakeholders for the field tour. Photo Credit: The Maui News

"In the meantime, grant funding is also an option for the community. One available program is the U.S. Forest Service Wildland Urban Interface grant, which provides funding for projects related to fire education, planning and prevention. Through this grant, the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization already has $5,000 for a fuel reduction project in Kahikinui that must be matched by cash or volunteer hours."

"Currently, Kahikinui is working to become a certified Firewise Community through the help of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization. Pablo Beimler, the organization's community outreach coordinator, said that he expects Kahikinui to receive its certification by the end of the year. Being certified would help push Kahikinui higher on grant funding lists and could reduce insurance costs in the future, he said.

Trauernicht said that the prevention projects being considering 'are always cheaper in the long run' when compared to the costs of restoring forests, livestock fuel and homes."