Wildfire LOOKOUT! campaign raises awareness about the threat of fires
HONOLULU – More than 30 government and non-government organizations from across the state launched the 2018 Wildfire LOOKOUT! campaign last week to raise awareness about the threat of wildfire to Hawaii’s natural resources as well as private and public property.
This comes on the heels of a series of wildfires across the state over the past few weeks, including brush fires in West Maui on Aug. 24.
This year’s campaign, organized by the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO), focuses on singular messaging through social media and public service announcements with tips to inform the community about ways they can help to prepare for this fire season.
Tips revolve around four themes: wildfire prevention, hazard reduction, home hardening and planning ahead. A full list of wildfire preparation tips is available on the HWMO website.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ (DLNR) Division of Forestry and Wildlife is the lead agency charged with wildfire prevention and suppression on public lands across the state.
DLNR Chair Suzanne Case said, “Wildfire is a serious threat to our natural resources – especially Hawaii’s watersheds and forest reserves. Everyone should be vigilant and take steps to reduce the threat of wildfires when hiking, camping and enjoying our beautiful outdoors. These tips are great reminders for residents and visitors to help prevent wildfires.”
Elizabeth Pickett, HWMO executive director, summarized the program.
“Most people don’t realize the scale of Hawaii’s wildfire issue, and how simple actions can keep our families, homes and irreplaceable natural resources protected and thriving. Prevention is the most important thing we can all do – firefighting is really just a last defense. We have to accept that we live in a fire-prone state and do simple things like pull over on pavement and never on dry grass, prioritize keeping our yards maintained and practice our family emergency plans.
“Wildfire LOOKOUT! provides exactly the information we all need to know to keep Hawaii’s people and places safe. If I could share one thing, I would encourage everyone to learn more about wildfire in Hawaii, share the information widely and be wildfire-aware in all that you do.”
University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Wildland Fire Specialist Dr. Clay Trauernicht added, “We’ve had more than 31,000 acres burn this past month alone on Maui, Hawaii and Oahu counties. To put this in perspective, about the same percentage (0.8 percent) of our state land area has burned in 2018 as in California. These large fires are really driven by the combination of vast, mostly unmanaged areas of grasslands and shrublands and a one-two punch with the weather we’ve gotten this year. A wet winter has led to an incredible buildup of fuels which are now drying out rapidly as drought sets in across the state.”