State and county agencies prepare the public for wildfire season


EDITOR’S NOTE: Eric Moller works for the Pohakuloa Training Area Fire Department, he is not Hawaii County Fire Chief. Hawaii also does not lead the nation in percentage of land area burned each year.


As we head into the dry season, state and county officials are warning the public about wildfires.

They’re not only impacting vegetation, but our coral reefs as well because of the ash and soot.

Agencies took the initiative not only getting the word out, but also to explain what the community can do to help.

Wildfires harm native forests, impact the air quality, water quality, and water supply as well.

According to the Department of Land and Natural Resources, virtually all wildfires in Hawaii are caused by people.

Some of the impacts of wildfires are more visible than others.

“The coral reefs have been suffering from a lot of the runoff from recent fires, wildfires,” Adusalaam Moultaala said.

Today, people on Hawaii Island had the opportunity to learn more about those impacts.

While children learned more about fire safety and fire trucks, adults got information about protecting their homes – like eliminating combustible materials, and not idling cars over dry grass.

“If we had a fire, we are very limited resources on this island, that’s why our mutual aid agreement is so strong,” Eric Moller, Pohakuloa Training Area Fire Department, said.

The National Weather Service says the South Kona, North Kona, and Kau district on Hawaii Island are currently covered by severe drought. But as we get into the summer that becomes the wet season for that area.

“We are better off than we were a year ago. Heading into the dry season, about 80-percent of the state was in some sort of drought. Going into this dry season, only about 1/2 the state is in some sort of drought,” Tom Birchard, NWS senior meteorologist, explained.

“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.

For more information on Hawaii wildfires, visit http://www.hawaiiwildfire.org/lookout

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