Recent wildfires burn through state's fire response budget

Recent wildfires burn through state's fire response budget

WAIANAE, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Wildfires have burned roughly 30,000 acres statewide in the past week, gobbling up the state's limited resources for fire response efforts.

State and military crews are wrapping up their firefighting operations in two West Oahu forest reserves.

Among the casualties: The flames scorched some endangered native plants in the Makua Keaau Forest Reserve.

"Gouania vitifolia is a plant that has less than 50 individuals in the wild and a significant population was burned. Also, the state flower, hibiscus brackenridgei, we had a little place that was protected for them, managed for them and those burned up, too," said Marigold Zoll, the Division of Forestry and Wildlife's Oahu branch manager.

Less than six weeks into the new fiscal year, officials have already spent about a third of the DOFAW's budget for fire and emergency response, including the Kilauea eruption.

"Over the last 10 years, on average, we spend $1 million a year on emergency and fire response, and so this year we were able to get $900,000 allocated from the legislature and that is really so helpful," said Zoll.

Last year's budget was $500,000. In the past, the land department has had to use funding from other programs to help with fire suppression efforts.

"We're not in any sort of extraordinary drought conditions at the moment but we're coming out of quite a wet winter and so the combination, of dry, summertime, windy conditions, with the excess rainfall we had throughout the winter just allows all those fuels to accumulate," said Clay Trauernicht, a wildland fire specialist with the University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service.

With all the recent wildfires, many are worried about what's in store for the rest of the hot summer season.

"Most of our fires are started by people, so if you see suspicious activities, please report it to the authorities," said Trauernicht. "Also beware, don't park in the tall grass, you can start fires from the catalytic converters under your car. "If you're barbecuing or having campfires, make sure you put them out."

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.