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Take precautions to prevent wildfires

By Mark Vieth - Editor | Sep 11, 2020

Just hours after firefighters put out a fast-moving 1,500-acre brushfire in Central Maui, the National Weather Service kicked off its annual Wildfire & Drought Awareness Campaign on Aug. 31.

Fires can happen at any time, but the fall months of September and October are typically the most prone to wildfire starts in Hawaii.

A week ago, the U.S. Drought Monitor rated West Maui as being in “severe drought.”

Kevin Kodama, the senior service hydrologist with the NWS Forecast Office in Honolulu, explained, “Vegetation conditions have really become dry over portions of the state during August, especially in the leeward areas of Maui County, where severe drought has been quite persistent. Furthermore, based on our climate guidance, it’s looking like we may have a late start to our October through April wet season, and significant relief may not show up until November.”

Keep in mind that 95 percent of wildland fires are caused by people — usually accidentally.

In these hot, arid and windy conditions, don’t park on dry grass, don’t use equipment that sparks (especially on a dry day), keep grass cut short and trees trimmed high, and clean leaf piles in the yard, in rain gutters and around structures.

Residents living in a drought or fire-prone area should also establish family emergency plans and consider neighbors or loved ones who might need help evacuating.

“The difference about wildfires that people need to understand, compared to most natural hazard events, is that they are preventable. We can reduce the impacts when we are proactive,” said Nani Barretto, co-executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization.

“There’s lots we can do to protect ourselves, our families, our communities. Now is the time to do that — to take action and to be proactive.”

For more information, visit www.hawaiiwildfire.org.