Kaneohe Marines Protect Rare Birds from Wildfires

Diane Drigot
Diane Drigot

KANEOHE (KHNL) - In drought watch, we head to Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe where the Marines do training with live ammunition. There's always the threat it could spark a wildfire. That's especially bad for thousands of rare birds that make their home at the firing range.

The red-footed boobies make their sea-side nests in the trees just above the Marine's firing range.

And nearly five million dollars has been spent to protect them.

At the Kaneohe base firing range, Marines shoot rifles making sure they're on target. It's the middle of fire season. Scorching hot sun, extremely dry brush. Already perfect conditions for a wildfire, then add ammuntion to the mix.

High above the bullets, the rare red-footed boobies make their home.

Diane Drigot is the base natural resource manager, "Federal law protects these birds, they are part of our precious national heritage."

It's the largest colony in the Hawaiian islands, explains Drigot, "The birds are instinctually protective, they will sit on a nest while a fire is going so if you don't control the fire they will sit on the nest, if the tree bursts into flames they will be dead right along with the tree."

Fire prevention is the priority. Range manager Dan Geltmacher explains, "We limit the use of pyrotechnics, devices like tracers, flares, smoke grenades, things we know have a high probability of starting a fire."

They're changing to fire resistant targets.

"When you look down range you notice targets are old rusted vehicles. when they are targeted hit with heavy caliber weapons they fragment throw hot metal into the grass and that starts a fire, " adds Geltmacher.

There are also four water cannons in place to quickly douse flames.