EAST OAHU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - This Memorial Day weekend, hard-working volunteers are helping out homeowners worried about the threat of wildfires. They started creating a new firebreak on Saturday near Mariner’s Cove.
According to community leaders, 16 wildfires burned through Kamilo Nui Valley in 2017, sparking fear in many residents.
“(It was) scary because it’s like they come out of nowhere and we just smell smoke, run out and see these flames,” recalled homeowner Cynthia Johnson.
With the help of a hazard assessment from the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, the community came up with an action plan.
“Some of the early fires started right behind these houses. You can see some of the garbage that’s been left behind is burnt,” said Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board member Carol Jaxon.
Last year, volunteers put in a fire break behind the nurseries in the valley.
Now, a second one is going in behind the homes of Mariner’s Cove. Team Rubicon, a nonprofit group, brought in military veteran volunteers and equipment to create a fire break that’s 545 yards long. They’re clearing trees, grass, and debris that could serve as fuel for a fire.
“The longer it sits and waits, the more dangerous it is. It doesn’t take much -- a cigarette over a fence or even a lighting strike will start something,” explained Stephen Carrol, Team Rubicon’s incident commander for the Mariner’s Cove operation.
With moderate drought conditions across the state, wildfire experts are concerned about this summer.
“During those El Nino periods, we actually see significant increases in wildfire ignitions, but also in the amount of area that burns so we’re defintiely very worried this summer,” said Pablo Beimler, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization’s community outreach coordinator.
Residents in Mariner’s Cove are grateful for all the help they’re receiving to reduce the wildfire risk around their homes.
“It’s like black and white, like a swarm of bees come in here and sort of take over, start in five different spots and just continue on down. It’s really amazing,” said homeowner Dick Johnson.
The wildfire preparedness event will wrap up on May 27 with volunteers working from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.