MAKAKILO, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -
As the Makakilo fire climbed higher on the Waianae mountain range, concern turned to the Honouliuli Forest Reserve, a 2,000-acre area managed by the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
"We have several endangered plant species and an endangered bird, the Oahu Elepaio, along with other endangered animals such as our tree snails," division administrator Lisa Hadway said.
The reserve is a biological resource, housing as many as 60 species on Hawaii's endangered list. Protecting it is a top priority for the forestry division. Forestry firefighters built fire lines to prevent the blaze from entering the reserve.
"We had our crews working out there over the weekend because we felt it was really important to get a good initial attack on the fire so that it wouldn't threaten our forest reserve resources," Hadway said.
So far the reserve is well outside the burn zone, which encompasses about 1,000 acres of torched earth. Hadway said if it went up in flames, the forest would be lost.
"Unlike the forests on the mainland U.S. that recover with fires, ours don't," she said.
The Makakilo fire is the latest Hawaii blaze to burn over 100 acres.
"The Pacific Fire Exchange has put together data that demonstrates that as a percent of acres, Hawaii is actually on par with the western states in terms of wild land fire acreage burned," Hadway said.
The forestry division is monitoring the Honolulu Fire Department's efforts to control the fire in the higher elevations of the Waianae range. Hadway said her enhancing her department's preparedness for fighting forest fires is crucial. .
"We're going to really be looking to ramp up over the next few years to make sure we're well-trained and well-equipped to make sure that we can protect these areas, not only for the species and forests and the recreational value, but also for the critical watersheds that these areas provide," she said.