fire prevention

Spark from hammer caused California's largest wildfire, agency says

The Mendocino Fire Burned for weeks before it was contained.

The Mendocino Fire Burned for weeks before it was contained.

The Ranch Fire was Californiaʻs largest wildfire at 410,203 acres, and It was started from one tiny spark. The Mendicino Fire Complex that raged during the summer of last year was multiple fires that ignited at the same time in close proximity, heavily taxing all fire suppression resources in the area. 280 structures were destroyed in the fire complex, and the biggest fire in the dual-fire incident started due to a single spark.

From the source:

(CNN) The Ranch Fire, the largest wildfire in California history in terms of acres burned, was caused by a spark or hot metal fragment that came from a hammer driving a metal stake into the ground, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"After a meticulous and thorough investigation, CAL FIRE has determined that the Ranch Fire was caused by a spark or hot metal fragment landing in a receptive fuel bed," the news release said.

Read More about the Mendicino Fire Complex here

Community Invited to Celebration of Life for HFD Veteran Killed in Crash

“David Mahon helps his son, Dylan, use a fire hose in this family photo. (Chris Anderson/Special to West Hawaii Today)”

“David Mahon helps his son, Dylan, use a fire hose in this family photo. (Chris Anderson/Special to West Hawaii Today)”

As we mourn the tragic death of Captain David Alan Mahon we also celebrate his life and the many lives he touched. He will be missed.

We hope you can join the public celebration this weekend and help contribute to his memorial fundraiser:

From the Source:

A public celebration of life will be held Saturday for veteran Hawaii Fire Department Capt. David Alan Mahon, 49, who was killed last week in a three-car crash on Mamalahoa Highway.

Mahon’s family and friends invite the community to a service that will open at 2 p.m. with a reception at the ballroom Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa at Keauhou Bay.

As Dry Summer Season Nears, A Community is Working to Prevent Wildfires

Team Rubicon volunteers out in full force to help create a firebreak. Credit: Hawaii News Now

Team Rubicon volunteers out in full force to help create a firebreak. Credit: Hawaii News Now

As a very fitting tribute to Memorial Day, a collaboration of people including military veterans from Team Rubicon, an international veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help reintegrate veterans back into civilian life, came out in full force to create a large firebreak around Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove. The Firewise Community (the first ever on Oahu as of 2018!) of agricultural and residential lots in Hawaii Kai, has been working with HWMO for a couple of years now in an effort to create a more wildfire resilient community.

This weekend, as part of Wildfire Preparedness Day, we are seeing what it means to be fire-adapted: everyone playing a role to reduce wildfire risk. The Firewise committee consisting of local residents and farmers, Aloha Aina O Kamilo Nui, and Livable Hawaii Kai Hui organized the work days; Team Rubicon volunteers are knocking back fire fuels; neighboring landowners provided access to the land and green waste hauling services; residents are feeding volunteers; and HWMO provided a hazard assessment, continual guidance through the Firewise Communities process, and a $2,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service. We are so grateful to everyone who is helping out to make Kamilonui - Mariner’s Cove a model for community-driven wildfire protection on Oahu and for the rest of the Hawaiian Islands!

From the Source:

This Memorial Day weekend, hard-working volunteers are helping out homeowners worried about the threat of wildfires. They started creating a new firebreak on Saturday near Mariner’s Cove.

With the help of a hazard assessment from the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, the community came up with an action plan.

With moderate drought conditions across the state, wildfire experts are concerned about this summer.

“During those El Nino periods, we actually see significant increases in wildfire ignitions, but also in the amount of area that burns so we’re defintiely very worried this summer,” said Pablo Beimler, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization’s community outreach coordinator.

“It’s like black and white, like a swarm of bees come in here and sort of take over, start in five different spots and just continue on down. It’s really amazing,” said homeowner Dick Johnson.

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.

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.

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


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.

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. 

El Nino Conditions Played a Part In the Raging Brush Fires Over the Weekend

Credit: KITV4 News

Credit: KITV4 News

El Nino means more wildfires. More wildfires means more impacts. We must all be ready for a busy fire year. Check out Wildfire LOOKOUT for wildfire prevention and preparedness resources at your fingertips.

From the Source:

"With El Niño comes drought usually and so that dries out all the vegetation and we can get an out of season active period in terms of brush fires,"  Kevin Kodama, hydrologist, National Weather Service, said. "For the Leeward areas, you're really getting out of a chance of any sort of meaningful rainfall for that side of the island anyway. It's the driest time of the year."

"The big risk factors are sort of all of these unused former agricultural lands but all this grass," Clay Trauernicht, wildland fire specialist, University of Hawaii, said. 

"It should allow folks in those communities to start to get ready and realize the threat is there and they can do something about it now to minimize the impact,"  Captain Scot Seguirant, HFD, said. 

To help prevent wildfires, Seguirant recommends residents cut their brush and vegetation to at least 30 feet away from their homes. 

750 Trees Find New Homes in the Mountains of Waianae

“Dozens of volunteers got down and dirty to plant roughly 750 trees on Oahu’s west side.” Credit: DLNR.

“Dozens of volunteers got down and dirty to plant roughly 750 trees on Oahu’s west side.” Credit: DLNR.

Important work being done by our partners from the Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership and DLNR to reforest Waianae Kai State Forest Reserve, which will create a more resilient landscape and reduce the wildfire risk in the area. If you want to get involved with the planting events, you’re asked to contact coordinator Yumi Miyata at (808) 227-9545, or

From the Source:

“The Enterprise Urban Tree Initiative brings our employees together to volunteer in communities like Waianae that have been devastated by natural disasters, such as wildfires,” said Chris Sbarbaro, Enterprise Hawaii Vice President of External Affairs. “We support the Arbor Day Foundation and its partners in their efforts to build strong communities from the ground up and create a sustainable and inclusive future for all.”

The need to restore Oahu’s west side comes as a dry spell started to hit Nanakuli, and is likely to move toward Waianae during the normally hot and dry summer months.

“Unfortunately, wildfires have become more frequent in Waianae. The cycle of infrequent, heavy rain followed by dry, hot and windy weather creates the perfect conditions for fast-moving, intense fire. A recent fire in August 2018 burned more than 1,500 acres of the forest reserve, threatening native forests important for water recharge,” said Yumi Miyata, Waiʻanae Mountains Watershed Partnership Coordinator and Chair of Hawaii Association of Watershed Partnerships.

Police Identify Suspect Arrested in Connection with Maili Wildfires in West Oahu

Footage from Senator Maile Shimabukuro broadcasted on Hawaii News Now.

Footage from Senator Maile Shimabukuro broadcasted on Hawaii News Now.

Although 75% of wildfires are deemed accidental and thus easily preventable in Hawaii, according to researcher Dr. Clay Trauernicht of UH CTAHR Cooperative Extension, we also have a challenging arson issue. It’s rare for authorities to catch arsonists and even more difficult to prosecute arsonists. In this Maili fire, a suspect was found at the scene of one of four wildfires along Farrington Highway in Maili. Thankfully no one was hurt and no homes were lost, but an investigation is underway.

From the Source:

The dramatic afternoon has Senator Shimabukuro renewing her push for a million dollars in grant money to help fight West Oahu wildfires.

“Fires have been terrorizing our community my whole life," she said. “Every summer, our mountains are on fire. I really hope that this million dollars that the community is requesting for the Waianae Kai Wildfire Preparedness Plan can be granted by the legislature."

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.”

Apply for a Wildfire Community Preparedness Day Grant by March 1!

#WildfirePrepDay 2018 at Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove in Hawaii Kai, Oahu. They received a State Farm grant for their vegetation reduction efforts and were able to go the extra mile because of it! Credit: Livable Hawaii Kai Hui

#WildfirePrepDay 2018 at Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove in Hawaii Kai, Oahu. They received a State Farm grant for their vegetation reduction efforts and were able to go the extra mile because of it! Credit: Livable Hawaii Kai Hui

From our partners at NFPA:

Wildfire Community Preparedness Day this year it is May 4, 2019. NFPA® will again be offering project funding awards to 150 communities across the United States. Each of these $500 awards provided with past generous support from State Farm, can be used to complete a wildfire safety project where you live.

The application period for one of one hundred fifty $500 awards opens January 7 at 8 AM EST, and will close March 1 at midnight EST.  Winners will be announced March 22. 

Wildland Fire Danger Elevated in Hawaii with Drought in Forecast

Hualalai and Puu Anahulu Fuels.JPG

From the Source:

For Hawaii, El Nino often translates into summer moisture followed by winter drought.

Drought conditions will be increasingly prevalent in the coming decades, said Clay Trauernicht, UH-Manoa wildland fire specialist and author of a study that examined how climate change will affect wildfires in Hawaii and tropical areas around the world.

The paper, published in Science of the Total Environment, not only discusses the effects of climate change on fire, but demonstrates how tracking rainfall patterns year to year can help better forecast near-term wildfire risk, including the danger that excess rainfall in advance of drought can pose to Hawaii’s vulnerable grasslands.

As for the current fire danger, Trauernicht said environmental conditions are quite similar right now to the period right before August, when a string of storms built up the fuel load and the drying islands were struck by a rash of wildland fires that burned nearly 30,000 acres.

Elizabeth Pickett, executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, said most people don’t realize the scale of Hawaii’s wildfire problem. Each year about 0.5 percent of Hawaii’s total land area burns, which is equal to or greater than the proportion burned of any other U.S. state, she said.

Pickett said 98 percent of wildfires are started by humans, most of them accidentally. People have to accept that we live in a fire-prone state and be extra careful to prevent fires, she said.

One common way to start a wildfire is from a spark or hot components of a motor vehicle. It’s the primary reason why Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park closed Mauna Loa Road.

“By reducing the number of vehicles in high-risk areas, the park can mitigate the potential for a catastrophic event,” the park said.

Pickett said there are a number of simple things folks can do: Park cars on pavement and never on dry grass. Keep yards maintained and free of debris. Be careful with equipment that could spark. Practice family emergency plans.

More tips can be found at

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.

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.”

Fueling the Fire: Trump Thinks Logging Will Stop the Burning in California. It won't.

“On the left is the Camp Fire in Big Bend, California, and on the right the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California.” - Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images and David McNew/Getty Images

“On the left is the Camp Fire in Big Bend, California, and on the right the Woolsey Fire in Malibu, California.” - Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images and David McNew/Getty Images

One of the most renowned wildland fire experts, Stephen J. Pyne, offers more than his two cents of why the California fires are as extreme as they are…and it is not because California has not removed enough trees.

From the Source:

Where fires are crashing into towns, the real fuel is the built environment. Aerial photos of savaged suburbs tend to show incinerated structures and still-standing trees. The vegetation is adapted to fire; the houses aren’t. Once multiple structures begin to burn, the local fire services are overwhelmed and the fire spreads from building to building. This is the kind of urban conflagration Americans thought they had banished in the early 20th century. It’s like watching measles or polio return. Clearly, the critical reforms must target our houses and towns and revaccinate them against today’s fire threats. The National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise program shows how to harden houses and create defensible space without nuking the scene into asphalt or dirt.

Too often, whether we’re talking about politics or fire management, the discussion ends up in absolutes. We leave the land to nature, we strip it, or we convert it to built landscapes. We have either the wild or the wrecked. In fact, there are lots of options available, and they will work best as cocktails. There is a place for prescribed burning, for prescribed grazing, for prescribed thinning (a kind of woody weeding), for prescribed chipping and masticating by machines, for greenbelting—crafting swathes of low-fuel land use like recreational parks or even golf courses—and, in select sites, for prescribed logging. Most treatments should concentrate where people and high-value assets are at risk—exurbs, suburbs, municipal watersheds. Elsewhere, in wildlands, some kind of managed fire will likely prove the most usable means, and in the West, hybrid practices—half suppression, half prescribed burn—are becoming common.

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

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.”

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.