‘Wildfire and Drought Look Out!’ campaign illuminates

Helicopters are a critical resource for wildfire suppression in Hawaii, especially in steep terrain.

Helicopters are a critical resource for wildfire suppression in Hawaii, especially in steep terrain.

Story and photo by Clay Trauernicht

University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service

The National Inter-agency Fire Center recently warned of above average “Significant Wildland Fire Potential” for Hawaii, due to moderate to severe drought conditions statewide.

Drought in Hawaii is a clear indicator of high fire danger and this report came as no surprise to local fire response agencies and other partners working to improve wildfire readiness across the state.

In fact, the National Weather Service forecasters in Honolulu predicted a dry winter well in advance due to the current El Niño, one of the strongest on record.

Based on this forecast, the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization and the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service began developing wildfire safety outreach materials and reached out to the Big Island Wildfire Coordinating Group and the Oahu Wildfire Information and Education group in late 2015 to coordinate public messaging across our fire response agencies.

The outcome is a statewide, interagency “Wildfire and Drought Look Out!” campaign, due to roll out this month. The purpose of the campaign is to provide information to homeowners on wildfire prevention and risk reduction as well as to provide local media with wildfire-related news stories in order to maintain public interest and awareness.

Large fires on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island have certainly helped to put wildfire in the spotlight in recent months. The campaign will provide additional stories about landowners who have been directly impacted by wildfires as well as on-the-ground efforts to increase public awareness and to reduce wildfire danger through fuels management.

The campaign will be relevant and useful well beyond the current drought. Wildfires in Hawaii have increased in both frequency and size in recent decades.

Unfortunately, the causes of this increase — abundant human-caused ignitions, recurrent drought, and the expansion of fallow agricultural areas and fire-prone grasslands — will not change overnight.

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.

For information on how you can reduce wildfire risk, visit www.HawaiiWildfire.org.

(For additional information on fire history and fire science in Hawaii and the Pacific region, visit www.PacificFireExchange.org.)

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Category: News