Preparing for wildfire season on Oahu

Preparing for wildfire season on Oahu

KAPOLEI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Wildfires can occur all year round, but the flames are likely to spread quickly during the dry summer season.

Extra rainfall this spring helped keep vegetation green, but forecasters expect drier conditions to develop quickly, turning the brush into more fuel for wildfires.

"With the spring rains lasting a little bit longer, some of the vegetation may have grown around your property. You might have a lot more growth that you typically would see this time of year. Now is the time to think about pruning that back," said Derek Wroe of the National Weather Service.

Honolulu firefighters tackled 332 wildfires in 2011, 429 in 2012, and 91 through May 15 of this year. After a scary fire in Makakilo nearly two years ago, some residents have already cut down brush near their homes.

"Well, we get ready for the hose around the house so we can just shoot the fire in case if there's a fire coming, and call 911," said Teresita Bonilla, who witnessed the Makakilo blaze.

"First thing we want to advise our citizens to do is to make sure that they clear around their properties especially what we would call a wildland urban interface - where have homes next to forested areas - by clearing a path back at least 25 feet from your home," said Dep. Fire Chief Lionel Camara of the Honolulu Fire Department.

Some common causes of wildfires include discarded cigarettes, camp fires and illegal fireworks

A maliciously set wildfire is usually considered third-degree arson, which is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

"The reason the law is written to be so serious is because it does endanger so many people. Those fires can easily burn out of control, endangering the public, but every fire that's set is going to endanger the emergency responders," explained Maj. Richard Robinson of the Honolulu Police Department.

According to fire officials, if a wildfire caused by a juvenile spreads beyond 20,000 square feet, parents can be held liable for charges like the cost of firefighting operations.

Residents are encouraged to report suspicious activities to authorities. Other tips include planning escape routes and making a list of items needed for an evacuation.

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