How to protect your home, property as Hawaii enters brush fire season

Summer is brush fire season.

As the weather gets hotter and drier, the islands become more susceptible to brush fires.

Already this year, the Honolulu Fire Department reports 165 incidents with more than 350 acres burned here on Oahu.

And the latest fire above Waialua, which has burned at least 450 acres, isn’t out yet.

Many times, it’s hard to determine the cause of these fires, but when fire investigators do find an origin, usually it points to human actions, whether intentional or unintentional,
and that a high percentage of them can be prevented.

Fire experts say Hawaii’s grassy lands make for good fuel and are prone to brush fires. Especially after our wet season, which made the grass grow, we have more fuel to burn if we are not careful.

Brush fire prevention tips

Clear vegetation 10 feet around campfires and BBQs, keep a shovel and water nearby, and put them out COLD before walking away.

Be sure machinery and recreational vehicles have operating spark arrestors and are maintained regularly.

Heat from vehicle exhaust systems can ignite dry grass. Park cars on areas that are paved or where vegetation is trimmed and cleared.

Fireworks are a common cause of brush fires in dry, grassy areas. Attend and enjoy public fireworks displays to maximize safety and fire protection.

Clay Trauernicht, a wildfire specialist with the University of Hawaii, says areas of drought make matters worse.

“The National Interagency Fire Center, so this is the federal level, has issued above-normal, above-average fire danger conditions for the Big Island,” said Trauernicht.

The Honolulu Fire Department fights brush fires year-round. There are more fires during the summer months, especially on the leeward side where it’s drier.

Here on Oahu in 2015, there were a little more than 300 fires burning about 2,000 acres.

That number increased in 2016 with 371 fires burning more than 3,300 acres.

HFD says grassy areas create fuel for brush fires so removing brush is ideal.

Be careful when starting your car or using machinery in grassy areas. Clear a 30-foot radius of brush around your property and off your structure.

“Dry leaves, dry brush, anything up against a home that can take an ember from a nearby wildland fire, catch on fire, and transmit that fire to our homes,” said Capt. David Jenkins.

Also, report any suspicious or illegal activity.

We asked what can homeowners do about overgrown grass that is not on their property?

“If there is any kind of issue where you feel there is a fire code violation, which includes unsafe conditions due to storage materials or overgrowth, you can always call the Honolulu Fire Department,” said Jenkins.

You can contact HFD’s Fire Prevention Bureau at (808) 723-7161.

Click here for more information.

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