‘Call to action’: High wildfire risk extends beyond leeward areas of all islands, report says
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A new draft report pinpoints Hawaii communities with the highest wildfire risk — and shows that significant fire danger extends beyond just leeward communities.
That’s true for every island in the state, the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization says.
Maps created by the organization provide communities across the state with fire risk ratings.
Of all the islands, Oahu appears to have the most fire risk areas. Besides the windward side of the island, the map shows most communities along the coast and parts of Central Oahu at high risk.
On Kauai, many coastal communities island wide are listed as having a high fire danger. Meanwhile, high fire-risk areas on Hawaii Island are mainly on the west side and southern tip of the island. On Maui and Molokai, there are several high risk areas areas along south, west and north shores.
Lanai is listed as having the least risk, but according to the map, there’s still danger.
- Review of body cam footage raises new questions about county’s Lahaina response
- Maui emergency response officials ignored advice, turned down state help in early hours of disaster
- ‘It was a failure’: Member of wildfire advisory team says Maui can’t miss key lessons again
- 2 years ago, Maui County-funded commission sounded the alarm about wildfire risks
“I think everybody, especially after what happened on Maui is very interested in how do we make sure that it doesn’t happen again,” said state Rep. Linda Ichiyama.
Ichiyama is co-chair of the state’s Wildfire Prevention Working Group. It’s one of six working groups formed by the House speaker in response to the Maui wildfires.
Ichiyama’s group is tasked with writing a report identifying causes of wildfires as well as preventative actions that can be taken to reduce the risk statewide.
She says after seeing the body camera video captured by Maui officers Aug. 8 one thing was clear: “Really what it shows us ... is how unprepared we were.”
Ichiyama added, “That’s why our report really is a call to action to make sure we’re preventing them rather than just responding to them.”
According to the Wildfire Prevention Working Group’s draft report, between 2006 and 2016 there were nearly 1,000 wildfires statewide.
On average, 20,000 acres burned each year and 99% of the state’s wildfires are human caused.
Despite the growing risk given climate change, the report says most Hawaii communities “do not have well-developed and comprehensive emergency preparedness and disaster response plans.”
Meanwhile, creating evacuation routes can be tricky. That’s because the report says “two-thirds of Hawaii’s communities only have one way in and one way out.”
The report also says some fire companies don’t meet national staffing standards. HNN Investigates is still trying to clarify exactly which ones.
According to officials, Hawaii is also the “only state in the nation without a State Fire Marshall.”
“Unfortunately so much of our focus has been on suppression. Responding to the fire after it started,” Ichiyama said. “I think we would get more benefit by investing in prevention.”
Help Hawaii Fight Wildfires
The legislative working group is looking for your recommendations on wildfire prevention measures. That information will be used to take action next legislative session.
If you’d like to submit written testimony, click here.
For a link to the working group’s draft report, click here.
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