suppression costs

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.”

Recent Wildfires Burn Through State's Fire Response Budget

Makaha Valley fire that burned precious native forest. Credit: Dr. Clay Trauernicht

Makaha Valley fire that burned precious native forest. Credit: Dr. Clay Trauernicht

There is no question -- wildfire in Hawaii have extensive impacts on our natural resources from our native forests down to the coral reefs. And there is no question that fighting fires is expensive (and increasingly so everywhere including in Hawaii. Wildfire prevention and pre-fire management are proven to make a significant positive impact on the protection of communities and natural resources and are much more cost-effective than fighting fires. By supporting HWMO's work, you are also supporting our close partners from State Division of Forestry and Wildlife, the county fire departments, and all others who are tasked with putting it all out on the line to fight fires in Hawaii. With the very busy peak fire season erupting this last week, we hope you can consider making a contribution to HWMO to protect our communities, lands, and waters from wildfire. Mahalo!

From the Source:

Wildfires have burned roughly 30,000 acres statewide in the past week, gobbling up the state's limited resources for fire response efforts.

Among the casualties: The flames scorched some endangered native plants in the Makua Keaau Forest Reserve.

"Gouania vitifolia is a plant that has less than 50 individuals in the wild and a significant population was burned. Also, the state flower, hibiscus brackenridgei, we had a little place that was protected for them, managed for them and those burned up, too," said Marigold Zoll, the Division of Forestry and Wildlife's Oahu branch manager.

Less than six weeks into the new fiscal year, officials have already spent about a third of the DOFAW's budget for fire and emergency response, including the Kilauea eruption.

"Most of our fires are started by people, so if you see suspicious activities, please report it to the authorities," said Trauernicht. "Also beware, don't park in the tall grass, you can start fires from the catalytic converters under your car. "If you're barbecuing or having campfires, make sure you put them out."

9 Bravo finds a permanent home: HFD 9-B Volunteer Fire Company’s new South Kohala facility nears completion

"9 Bravo’s two fire trucks are displayed outside the new building July 20 for the open house event. The facility is located between Mauna Lani and downtown Waimea. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)"

"9 Bravo’s two fire trucks are displayed outside the new building July 20 for the open house event. The facility is located between Mauna Lani and downtown Waimea. (LANDRY FULLER/SPECIAL TO WEST HAWAII TODAY)"

This is huge! Congratulations to Captain Mike Shattuck, 9 Bravo and the communities that have supported efforts to boost fire response in South Kohala. Now it is time to increase safety for communities such as Kanehoa (a Firewise community since 2015) by raising more funds for a fire hydrant, security fencing, and gates. Tax deductible donations to help complete 9 Bravo’s new facility can be mailed to AOK, P.O. Box 7121, Kamuela, Hawaii 96743. Info: Call Guido Giacometti at 896-3849.

From the Source:

On July 20, local residents, firemen, county and state officials gathered at the end of Shattuck’s street for an open house of a new building that sits smack dab between the Anekona Estates and Ouli subdivisions.

One day soon it will house a bright yellow engine pumper and a 6×6 tanker, along with hoses, pumps, parts and protective gear used by Hawaii Fire Department’s (HFD) 9-B Volunteer Fire Company, more commonly known as 9 Bravo. But to do so, $25,000 will need to be raised to buy a fire hydrant, security, plumbing and electric to complete the facility...

Volunteer firefighters first banded together in 2009 to help county firemen protect South Kohala. 9 Bravo now consists of eight volunteers who are trained and dispatched by HFD to battle blazes around the island — all without pay.

The major elements of the building are now complete, but a number of items are still needed.

“A fire hydrant, security fencing, gates and other details must be finished in order to obtain an occupancy permit,” he said.

Deadly California Wildfire Could Become Largest in State's History

"Firefighters from the Governors Office of Emergency Services monitor the advance of smoke and flames from the Thomas Fire, Dec. 16, 2017 in Montecito, Calif." Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

"Firefighters from the Governors Office of Emergency Services monitor the advance of smoke and flames from the Thomas Fire, Dec. 16, 2017 in Montecito, Calif." Credit: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

From the Source:

"The Thomas fire, which has killed two and destroyed more than a thousand structures in Southern California, could become the largest wildfire in the state’s history as the monster inferno continues to grow.

The Thomas fire has burned steadily since Dec. 4, and authorities say it could take weeks to fully contain. It has reduced at least 1,026 homes and business to ashes and damaged more than 240 others.

It was 45 percent contained as of Sunday evening as about 8,530 firefighters from about 100 different crews battled the blaze. Officials estimated that firefighters won’t achieve full containment until Jan 7."

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)

When Spark Meets Sprawl: Building in Wildlands Increases Fire Risk

Sand Fire. (Credit - Center for Investigative Reporting)

An incredibly thorough and comprehensive Center for Investigative multimedia article with many facts, figures, maps, images, and soundbites that is definitely worth checking out! This is the article to read if you want to learn more about the current state of the "Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI)" and the continuing risks developing into the wildlands presents for communities and our natural resources.

From the Source:

"Nationally, more than a third of new homes built since 2000 are in WUI areas. What has happened, wildfire historian Stephen J. Pyne wrote in 2008, is that we’re “leaving natural growth alone and then stuffing the openings with combustible structures.”

“Stephen J. Pyne, the wildfire historian, said that unless there’s coherent and coordinated policy that looks at development and forest management, these problems will be difficult to solve.

‘Otherwise, you’re just in the whack-a-mole mode and you’re not going to win,’ Pyne said. ‘In cities, every fire you put out is a problem solved. In wildlands, every fire you put out is a problem put off.’”

'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."

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."

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."

Proposed Global Satellite Network Could Detect Wildfires in 15 Minutes

"FireSat, a concept developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, could detect wildfires within 15 minutes anywhere in the world. (Image provided by NASA/JPL)"

"FireSat, a concept developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, could detect wildfires within 15 minutes anywhere in the world. (Image provided by NASA/JPL)"

This might become the biggest game changer in wildfire detection, especially for remote areas (and Hawaii has quite a few of them).

From the Source:

"A San Francisco-based company wants to turn technology developed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory into a global network of satellites that can report a wild fire anywhere in the world within 15 minutes.

The FireSat system, built around a low-power sensor that can detect fires once they reach 35 to 50 feet, would notify emergency services within three minutes after the detection. The system of more than 200 satellites would provide almost nonstop wildfire detection from space.

'You basically get coverage of every location on earth, once every 15 minutes,' said Arthur Lane, technical coordinator for FireSat at Quadra Pi R2E, the San Francisco Company behind the program."

Two Years After Deadly Wildfire, Are There Lessons In the Ashes?

"An aerial view shows the Yarnell Hill fire burning June 29, 2013 near the town of Yarnell, Ariz. The next day, 19 firefighters died battling the blaze." Credit - Arizona State Forestry Division/Getty Images

"An aerial view shows the Yarnell Hill fire burning June 29, 2013 near the town of Yarnell, Ariz. The next day, 19 firefighters died battling the blaze." Credit - Arizona State Forestry Division/Getty Images

Check out this 5-minute audio report about the Yarnell Hill fire that claimed 19 firefighters' lives - interview with Kyle Dickman, a former hotshot who wrote the book "On the Burning Edge." "He tells NPR's Eric Westervelt about the wall of flames that the Granite Mountain Hotshots faced, and how the incident has - and hasn't - changed firefighting technology and practices.

From the Source:

"On one firefighter whose story sticks with him

One boy's name was Grant McKee; he was the youngest guy on the crew. And Grant McKee was really hesitant. He didn't necessarily want to join the crew, and he didn't want to be a hotshot, he wanted to be a paramedic. And so he had a really hard time sort of fitting into the rough-and-tumble culture of the hotshot crew. And I think what touched me about Grant's story was watching him come into it, so reluctant to join the crew, and then go from being an outcast to being an accepted member and actually sort of falling in love with the job.

On whether the tragedy was caused by bad luck or "unforgivable human error," and the changes he'd like to see

What I would like to see is a larger percentage of that money going toward preparing for wildfires. So instead of spending billions fighting them, we should be spending ... billions preparing for them — by thinning the forest, by using more prescribed fire, by letting more wildfires burn."

HFD Warns of Brush Fire Risk as Dry Conditions Approach

Screen capture from KHON2

Screen capture from KHON2

We were honored to be a part of the media event that led to this news piece. Honolulu Fire Department offered great tips for preparing for what looks like a busy period of wildfires ahead.

From the Source:

“'You should keep your property well maintained,' said HFD spokesperson, Capt. David Jenkins. 'Keep anything combustible away. If it catches fire it shouldn’t be leaned up against your structure. Anything that can transfer the wild land fire to your home should be cleared away and put somewhere safe.'

Firefighters also say you should have a 30 foot buffer zone around your house and make sure to maintain a fire break.

Brush fires are a statewide problem and fire officials say the majority are started by people whether it’s an accident or intentional.

On Kauai authorities say there have been 70 brush fires since December all believed to be intentionally set.

Some tips for you to stay safe this season:

  • Clear away any brush or high weeds at least 30 feet away from any structures. That brush or weeds could act as fuel for a fire.
  • Make sure you keep a water course near your house.
  • If you see smoke, call 911 immediately.
  • If you are a smoker, do not discard lit cigarettes out of your vehicle."

Firefighters Battling Brush Fire Near Mililani Mauka (VIDEO)

Wildfires, unlike on the mainland where there are fire-adapted ecosystems, can be detrimental to our native ecosystems in Hawaii. The current Mililani Mauka fire is a reminder of just how destructive wildfires can be here. Keep an eye out for the after effects of the fire. After a solid rainfall event, check out the neighboring shoreline to see if there is residue smothering the reefs as a result of the wildfire.

"[The] native forest cover protects Hawaii's watersheds and allows rainfall to slowly recharge the aquifer. When native forests burns in a wildland fire, the soil erodes into streams and out onto reefs, causing damage far beyond the burn site. Recovering native vegetation is hindered by invasive plant species which quickly recolonize the site and often are both more prone to burning and better adapted to survive fire, resulting in a destructive cycle of wildland fires."

From the Source: 

"Fire responders from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Forestry and Wildfire, and Honolulu Fire Department are continuing to fight the wildland fire located in the Kipapa drainage above Mililani Mauka, including parts of the Oahu Forest National Wildlife Refuge.

Approximately 350 acres of mostly intact native forest has burned as of 12 p.m. Thursday.  Six DLNR firefighters and eight HFD personnel are trying to contain the fire using aerial drops of water by helicopter.

Due to the lack of road access and steep terrain, responders are relying on costly air support to contain the fire. Four contracted helicopters and HFD's Air One helicopter are currently battling the flames. No structures are currently threatened...

The 4,775 acre refuge is managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and protects habitat for several native bird species such as the 'elepaio, threatened and endangered plants, and endangered tree snails. The area burning is a mixed 'ohia koa forest with other native species present such as 'uluhe fern, loulu, iliahi (sandalwood), and halapepe."

Above: Credit - KITV4 News

Above: Credit - KITV4 News

Reducing Wildfire Risk to Communities

Headwaters Economics just released a white paper outlining ways to address the rising costs and risks associated with fighting fires in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).

Researchers at Headwaters Economics have proposed solutions that involve local, administrative, and legislative authorities in controlling the "pace, scale, and pattern of future home building in the not-yet developed portion of the WUI". HWMO will continue to work with our agency, community, and decision-maker partners on many of the solutions published by Headwaters Economics:

From the Source: 

"Solutions proposed by Headwaters Economics to address WUI issues -
 

  • Improve integration of wildfire mitigation plans into county comprehensive land use plans
  • Disclose fire risk to potential home buyers
  • Create powerful incentives for improved local land use planning
  • Shift more fire suppression responsibility to local governments
  • Provide technical and financial assistance for land use planning to local governments
  • Buy land or development rights on the most dangerous areas
  • Improve firefighter safety through improved public education and active participation in county land use planning
  • Map fire risk using national standards, with incentives for added detail by local governments

 
Visit the website, read the paper, and/or listen to the interview with Montana Public Radio."

Makakilo Fire Fight to Exceed $54,000, Family to Take Fire Safety Class (VIDEO)

The Makakilo fire is a stark reminder of just how easy a fire can start and carry in Hawaii. 2 young 7-year-old boys and a lighter is all it takes to cause a $54,000 suppression effort (not counting the post-fire structural and natural resource damages.)

Practice fire safety with your kids using these parental guides

From the Source: 

"'We want parents to realize that this could happen to anyone and how important it is to discuss fire safety with their children. We will participate in a fire safety program with them. Sorry,' he said on Saturday.The family will now go through a fire safety class with the fire department to discuss the dangers of playing with fire.

'The difference is delivery. It’s going to be a one-on-one education and anything else that we see is necessary in teaching them, we’ll work with them,' Capt. Jenkins said.

Children get fire safety lessons from a firefighters safety guide in school during Fire Prevention Week." 

Above: Credit - KHON2

Above: Credit - KHON2

Obama, Western Governors Make Plans for Fire Season

We fully support a strategy that does not involve dipping into fire prevention funds. We believe fire prevention and pre-suppression is key to reducing the threat of wildfire in Hawaii. Obama and the Western Governors agree:

From the Source: 

"A years-long drought parching Western states and threatening to ignite a record fire season is spurring the Obama administration to revise the federal government’s approach to combating wildfires that threaten hundreds of millions of acres of Western land.

Obama and senior administration officials on Monday met by video conference from the Situation Room with governors of eight states, gathered here for the annual meeting of the Western Governors Association. The White House reviewed national drought estimates and fire projections with governors and promised to work with them once fire season gets under way.

'Fire is a priority for this administration,' Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told governors on Monday."

"The Obama administration has said climate change is causing increasingly severe fire seasons, which average 60 to 80 days longer than in past decades because of hotter temperatures and less snowpack. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter (R) said Monday the fires are an environmental risk, too: In 2013, fires in Otter’s state added 6 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere and 34 million tons of particulates, he said."

"On Capitol Hill, the administration is also pushing Congress to adopt new budgetary rules that would remove forest-fire funding from the traditional budget process. Instead, major fires would be treated as disasters and funded the same way hurricanes, tornadoes and other calamities are treated.

Under current rules, when fire costs spiral out of control, the federal government has to dip into accounts set aside for long-term fire prevention, like fuel management, to pay for short-term containment and suppression costs.

'Because of the extent of fires that we’ve had in recent years, not only has the fire suppression been used up, but all the other money that’s been set aside for fuel mitigation has to be cannibalized to fight fire,' said South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R)."

Above: "Plumes of smoke from a wildfire rise from Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona, Ariz., as seen from I-89A near Sedona, Ariz.,on May 21, 2014." Credit: AP Photo/Vyto Starinskas

Above: "Plumes of smoke from a wildfire rise from Oak Creek Canyon in Sedona, Ariz., as seen from I-89A near Sedona, Ariz.,on May 21, 2014." Credit: AP Photo/Vyto Starinskas

Wildfires are Growing, and Growing More Costly (VIDEO)

From the Source: 

"The wildfires raging across California are the latest example of a grim reality: Wildfires are getting more dangerous, and they're costing us more, too.

U.S. taxpayers are paying about $3 billion a year to fight wildfires—triple what it cost in the 1990s—and big fires can lead to billions of dollars in property losses.

The bad news: It's going to get worse.

Researchers say a potent combination of climate change and homebuilding near wildfire-prone areas is already translating into bigger, longer, more dangerous fires, and none of those trends are showing signs of letting up."

Above: "Flames near a house in Carlsbad, Calif., May 14, 2014." Credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

Above: "Flames near a house in Carlsbad, Calif., May 14, 2014." Credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images