invasive species

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.

Brush Fire in Kalihi Burns 15 Acres

Kalihi Fire, April 7, 2019. Credit: KITV4

Kalihi Fire, April 7, 2019. Credit: KITV4

”Heavy stands of iron wood (Casuarina equisetifolia) on this ridge get thick carpets of leaf litter and duff - fire will just slow churn through that stuff for hours.” - Dr. Clay Trauernicht on the Kalihi fire.

From the Source:

A brush fire in Kalihi and Fort Shafter burns about 15 acres. The flames came close to the Kamehameha IV Apartments, but did not damage any Kalihi valley homes this afternoon. 

Smoke and flames were seen above Kalena Drive as the fire broke out around noon. Fire crews battled the flames on the hillside for nearly four hours before getting it under control.

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.”

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.”

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.

6,342 Invasive Pines Removed at Haleakalā, Volunteers Sought

"Volunteers remove invasive plants at summit of Haleakalā." Credit: Haleakalā NP.

"Volunteers remove invasive plants at summit of Haleakalā." Credit: Haleakalā NP.

Aloha friends visiting or living in Maui, here is a great way to care for the ʻāina with our friends from the National Park Service and the Pacific Whale Foundation, while also reducing the wildfire risk in Haleakalā. 

From the Source:

The next Waele ma Haleakalā will occur this Saturday, April 7, 2018. Since April of last year, Waele ma Haleakalā volunteers have pulled 6,342 invasive pines and almost 2,500 invasive plants.

Volunteers will physically remove young pine trees and other small invasive plants from the Summit District. Transportation, training, hand tools, gloves, and other equipment will be provided. Please sign up by 7:30 a.m. on Friday, April 6, 2018, by contacting the Pacific Whale Foundation at (808) 249-8811. Space is limited to 11 volunteers.

Wai Watchers: The Vital Role of Volunteers in Watershed Health

"Dedicated Makai Watch Volunteer James Heacock (clipboard) has been doing surveys for 10 years. Here, he surveys the coast with fisherman Kawika Auld." Photo courtesy of Christine Shepard

"Dedicated Makai Watch Volunteer James Heacock (clipboard) has been doing surveys for 10 years. Here, he surveys the coast with fisherman Kawika Auld." Photo courtesy of Christine Shepard

What does it take to protect an entire watershed? Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. Great feature in Ke Ola Magazine highlighting South Kohala Coastal Partnership efforts - we are proud to be a part of such a solid partnership!

From the Source:

The South Kohala Coastal Partnership is composed of over 70 participants including 30 state and local experts such as biologists, kūpuna, cultural practitioners, teachers, fishermen, coastal business owners, land managers, resort representatives, and more. Together they tackle everything from land-based sources of pollution, to unsustainable fishing practices, to invasive species. Community participation has provided essential people-power for data collection and projects supporting this work.

The reefs located at the bottom of Kohala Mountain reflect what happens at higher elevations. Over the centuries, events such as the historic harvest of sandalwood, the introduction of species like goats, overgrazing by cattle, fires, and floods have converted much of the once-forested mountain into grassland and denuded landscapes. Without roots, ferns, and mosses to catch and hold the heavy rains, acres of bare soil wash downstream. This erosion buries corals in sediment and reduces the reef’s once-rich diversity of fish and invertebrates. Did you know that each grain of sediment can be re-suspended 10,000 times by waves, blocking light and re-smothering coral over and over? Agencies like The Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization and The Kohala Center are working in partnership with landowners and ranchers to reduce this impact up-slope.

 

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."

From Forest Failure to Restoration Success in 20 Years

"The dark green patches of land are the result of a 20-year dryland forest restoration project on ʻUlupalakua Ranch lands in Auwahi, Maui." Credit - Dr. Art Medeiros

"The dark green patches of land are the result of a 20-year dryland forest restoration project on ʻUlupalakua Ranch lands in Auwahi, Maui." Credit - Dr. Art Medeiros

Collaboration and community volunteers play a crucial role in reviving Hawaii's disappearing native dryland forests, of which there are less than 3% left. We are inspired by all those involved in the Auwahi Forest Restoration Project. Restoring native forests means restoring our watersheds, which reduces wildfire and flood risk. 

From the Source:

“Why should people be concerned about dry forests? They’re identified as one of the world’s biological hotspots just for the number of species that occur there and nowhere else,” says Medeiros,”Culturally it’s really special too. It’s the last stronghold for many Hawaiian trees that were super important to the early Hawaiians.”

“If we lose the plants, to me, we use the colors and the perfumes and even the ability to make things out of the wood.”

Haleakala Seeks Volunteers for Pine Pulling Project

Three non-native pine species (Monterey pine, Mexican weeping pine, and maritime pine) are highly invasive. PC: Haleakalā NP.

Three non-native pine species (Monterey pine, Mexican weeping pine, and maritime pine) are highly invasive. PC: Haleakalā NP.

Great volunteer event this Saturday, July 15, to help reduce the fire threat at Haleakala National Park. 

From the Source:

"Three non-native pine species (Monterey pine, Mexican weeping pine, and maritime pine) are highly invasive. Rangers say they displace endemic and endangered species, change soil chemistry, and increase the potential for wildfire in habitats not adapted to fire. Park staff, partners, and volunteers periodically pull young pines to keep them from spreading throughout the park."

Hawaiian Birds Rapidly Colonize Young Restoration Forest

Hawai‘i ‘Elepaio. Credit: Kelly Jaenecke, USGS. Public domain.

Hawai‘i ‘Elepaio. Credit: Kelly Jaenecke, USGS. Public domain.

Restoring our forests has many positive outcomes, including bringing back rainwater to our parched landscapes and thus reducing wildfire risk. Native forests are also home to wildlife. We're excited to hear of the successful bird repopulation efforts of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge!

We will have an exciting silent auction item -- one of many -- at the Firefighter Chili Cook-Off on August 26 to go bird watching at Puʻu ʻOʻo. 

From the Source:

"Researchers used bird survey data collected over 26 years at the refuge to document how a diverse community of birds responded to the nearly 30 years of restoration efforts on the refuge. Their analysis revealed that most bird species increased in number throughout the restoration area, with the greatest increases detected in areas closest to intact forest where the density and diversity of understory shrubs was greatest."

"As temperatures rise with climate change, the area where the transmission of avian malaria is hindered by cooler temperatures will shrink, meaning the restoration of high-elevation forests may be one of the most important conservation tools to protect Hawaii’s native birds.

'We have a clearer picture of how we can facilitate expansion of particular bird species into reforestation areas by creating particular plant communities; this will help us ensure that Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge can continue to be a stronghold for Hawaiian forest birds,' said Kendall."

Waimea Canyon Fire Largest of Three

Credit: Mark Stainaker / The Garden Island

Credit: Mark Stainaker / The Garden Island

Kauai may have been blessed with rains of late, but that also means further growth of unmanaged flammable vegetation. Waimea Canyon, no stranger to large wildfire incidents, makes for difficult firefighting conditions. We thank first responders for their hard work on these challenging fires.

From the Source:

"State and county firefighting crews continue to battle a brush fire that is burning at the western edge of Waimea Canyon Tuesday. The fire is one of three that scorched over 60 acres of brush since yesterday.

About 30 DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildfire personal, along with the Kauai Fire Department, are establishing a control area between the 800- to 1,500-foot elevation of the mountain, amid grassland and haole koa shrubs. No homes or structures are threatened."

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)

'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."

Brush Fire Covers 393 Acres Near Waikii Ranch

"An Army UH-60 Blackhawk drops water on a fire near Waikii Ranch on Monday afternoon. The crew came from the medevac team." (Graham Milldrum / West Hawaii Today)

Creating a buffer-zone doesn't just have to stop around your home - a community-wide fuelbreak can be the difference between a destructive fire or not. Firefighters primarily from U.S. Army Pohakuloa Training Area were able to keep a 393-acre fire in the northern portion of Waikii on Hawaii Island from getting close to homes in the area in large part due to pre-fire fuels management. 

From the Source:

"Firefighters managed to keep it away from the homes in large part because a crew at the Waikii Ranch keeps the buffer zone largely clear of material, said Captain Steve Colona of the Pohakuloa Training Area’s Fire and Emergency Services."

"Then things changed.

'Well, the wind didn’t cooperate,' said Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Ty Medeiros.

It moved to the south and expanded the blaze, he said, which broke the fire’s containment although the area threatened has no structures in it.

The 20-mph winds not only directed the fire, they complicated the efforts of the two helicopters dropping water. One came from the county, and the other from the medevac unit stationed at the base."

PHOTOS: Kanehoa Community Clears the Way to Being 'Firewise'

Credit: HWMO

We cannot be any happier to see the great work the Kanehoa Firewise Committee and residents have put in to reduce the wildfire threat in their area. The second Firewise Community in Hawaii is well on their way to retaining that title for this year and beyond!

From the Source:

"Members of the Kanehoa community spent their Saturday making their community safer against the threat of wildfires.

The Hawai’i Wildfire Management’s Wildfire Prep Day provided communities across the island, state, and nation to participate in a day of preparation in honor of Wildfire Preparedness Month.

In total, two dozen Kanehoa community members joined in to remove an entire large dumpster with haole koa, also known as ekoa. The plant is known to be highly flammable and has the potential to create embers that can spark new fires, both near and far away."

"'All of us at Hawai’i Wildfire Management Organization are very proud of the work the Kanehoa community has contributed towards reducing the wildfire threat in their area and we hope more communities will follow their lead,' Pablo Akira Beimler, HWMO Community Outreach Coordinator, said in an e-mail.

Beimler says the efforts greatly reduced the wildfire threat by ensuring the roads can act as a fuel break to slow the spread of wildfire."

Despite Recent Rain, Drought Conditions Expected to Last Long Into Summer

Credit: West Hawaii Today

Credit: West Hawaii Today

You might be able to see it just outside your bedroom window: the landscape around you starting to look drier and drier. Forecasts are calling for severe droughts for most of Hawaiʻi throughout the year (and possibly beyond). There are a number of steps you can take to make sure you stay a few steps ahead of the many wildfires on the way, both on wet and dry sides. 

From the Source:

"These sudden downpours are part of the pattern, said Elizabeth Pickett, executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, based in Waimea. The moisture stays just long enough to encourage vegetation growth, then it disappears and takes its time coming back."

"A coordinated group of federal, state and county fire officials have declared a wildfire and drought lookout, said Pickett. Officials with the National Park Service, U.S. Army, and Hawaii County Fire Department and the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife are on alert, she said.

'The forecast is really dismal as far as long dry periods and vegetation growth,' Pickett said.

The public will see the agencies roll out a wildfire awareness campaign in May in coordination with the national Wildfire Awareness Month, Pickett said.

Residents can do simple things to protect themselves from wildfire. They include landscaping with native plants -- most of which are naturally fire resistant -- and cutting down and removing brush and other fuel from near their homes.

'Many (introduced) plants that don't get enough water during a drought will drop their leaves and create a fire hazard,' Pickett said. 

Oahu Hit Hard By Wildfires, Study Finds

Drs. Clay Trauernicht and Creighton Litton (both at University of Hawaii, CTAHR) gave excellent interviews regarding wildfires in Hawaii and the threats they pose on people and landscapes. Honolulu Star-Advertiser placed the story front and center on their Sunday paper and Hawaii Public Radio filled the airwaves about the scale and scope of Hawaii’s wildfire issues— information likely new to much of their audiences.  

In addition to Trauernicht and Litton of UH CTAHR, Elizabeth Pickett of HWMO was a co-author, along with Christian Giardina and Susan Cordell of the US Forest Service, and Andrew Beavers at the Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands at Colorado State University. HWMO created the database and fire history map that was the foundation of the research.  The research article can be found here:
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283685661_The_Contemporary_Scale_and_Context_of_Wildfire_in_Hawai'i_1

"Firefighters battled a brush fire in upper Makakilo in August 2014. Authorities later determined that the fire was started by two boys playing with a lighter." (Krystle Marcellus/Honolulu Star Advertiser)

From the Source:

"'People don’t typically think of wildfire as a frequent disturbance on tropical islands,' said Trauernicht in a UH release Friday.

But between 2005 and 2011, there were about 1,007 wildfires statewide that burned an average of about 20,000 acres, the researchers found.

A 108-year history showed a more-than-fourfold increase in acreage burned annually statewide, they found."

"'Oahu is off the charts,' he said, adding that Maui averaged about 200 wildfires annually."

"Observers say in Hawaii, more homes being built near open brush land sometimes force firefighters to place themselves dangerously between the fires and houses."

Brush Fire Near Windfarm in Maalaea Burns 80 Acres

"Fire in Maalaea, Jan. 21, 2016. Photo credit: Melinda Harrigan Fasel"

"Fire in Maalaea, Jan. 21, 2016. Photo credit: Melinda Harrigan Fasel"

Over 5 years ago, a large brushfire burned in the same area as the newest Maalaea fire, which burned over 80 acres and shut down Honoapiilani Highway. This is a prime example of an area riddled with the fire cycle issue: constant growth of invasives plus frequent ignitions leading to wildfires and thus new growth of invasives and the cycle continues.

From the Source:

"The fire started on the mauka side of Honoapiilani Highway, a quarter mile to the south of Maalaea Harbor.

Fire was burning towards the Kaheawa Wind farm but has not reached it yet.

Ground crews have no way to get to the fire because of steep mountainous terrain and no road access, so the fire is being fought with water drops from two helicopters."