Brush fire season in full swing
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Brush fire season in full swing

Sep 15, 2023

by: Nikki Schenfeld

Posted: Aug 4, 2023 / 08:58 PM HST

Updated: Aug 4, 2023 / 09:06 PM HST

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Brush fire season is underway. In the last 24 hours, Hawaii has seen several fires that have led to road closures and even airport closures. August tends to be peak fire season in Hawaii.

Five years ago, nearly 10,000 acres burned in Makaha and Waianae Valley’s; and this time two years ago, about 40,000 acres burned on Hawaii island.

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On Thursday, Aug. 3, a brush fire near Helemano Military Reservation on Paalaa Uka Pupukea Road led to an hours-long closure of Kamehameha Highway heading in and out of Oahu’s North Shore.

As that fire was burning, another one popped up in central Oahu near Waipio, which was dangerously close to several homes and freeways.

On Friday, Aug. 4, a brush fire near Kahului airport forced five in-bound flights to divert to Honolulu due to poor visibility. That fire burned about 30 acres.

No structures were damaged in any of the recent incident, but the threat of more fires remains.

“Most brush fires, by the time we’re notified it’s occurring, they’ve grown in size; and a lot of times, if someone wasn’t there to witness the start of the fire, we’re not going to be able to pinpoint the point of origin,” explained Batallion Chief Michael Jones.

Even with the best fire investigators, he said its hard to determine the starting point in the middle of a charred field, compared to inside of a home or a vehicle.

There are several factors that can easily start a brush fire with the right weather conditions including electrical wires; a small spark from a device; lightning; and, of course, by humans.

“If the environment is primed for that there’s a better chance but unless there’s a witness we wont know what started it,” Chief Jones added.

Historically, August and September are the hottest months in the state.

For 2023, a rainy wet season gave way to greener areas which have turned into dry brush this summer; and an active hurricane season brings the chance of even windier conditions.

“The winds have a huge impact on the direction the fire burns, how fast it burns, how fast it spreads and then that affects our tactics on how we’re going to protect lives, property and how we’re going to put it out,” Chief Jones added.

If you live or are ever near a brush fire, HFD said they use the LIP acronym meaning “Life safety, Incident stabilization and Property conservation.

They said saving lives comes first, then figuring out how to extinguish the fire and prevent it from spreading.

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“And the last thing, if we’re not worried about lives and controlled the incident to the best of our ability, then it’s property conservation –- anything that doesn’t involve a person, we’ll protect that as well,” he explained. “So, it’s a constant shift of priorities depending upon what’s in danger at that time.”

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