Fire Management

The mission of the DOFAW Fire Management Program is to provide protection to forest reserves, natural area reserves, wildlife and plant sanctuaries and public hunting areas. DOFAW will cooperate with established fire control agencies for the protection of other wildlands not within department protection areas to the extent needed to provide for public safety. DOFAW will hold environmental damage below the level at which it would interfere with the high level, sustained yield of services and commodities from these lands.

By virtue of its core mission, DOFAW plays a pivotal role in protecting the state’s watersheds and unique forest resources, i.e. forest products, and threatened and endangered species. Because wildfire is a threat to Hawai‘i’s economy, society, and natural resources, all levels of government have established fire services to guard against the ravages of uncontrolled conflagration. DOFAW has primary responsibility for the following management units:

Management Unit Acres
Forest Reserve 643,135
Public Hunting Area 879,544
Wildlife Sanctuary 38,878
Plant Sanctuary 166
Natural Area Reserve 109,164
Wilderness Preserve 9,939
TOTAL: 1,680,826

Combined with cooperative zones, DOFAW is involved with each of the four counties in the protection of 3,360,000 acres statewide, which approximately 81% of the state’s land area. The remainder is managed by various military fire departments and Department of Interior (National Park Service and the Fish & Wildilfe Service) and The Nature Conservancy of Hawai‘i.

In pursuit of this responsibility, DOFAW has adopted an Operations Policy Handbook which specifies its standards for prevention, presuppression, and suppression. The document provides a structured approach in providing for public/firefighter safety and minimizing damage to Hawai‘i’s environment. Funding for the fire management program is provided by the State’s general fund and federal cost share programs through the U.S. Forest Service. These programs include the Rural Community Fire Protection (RCFP) and Rural Fire Protection and Control (RFPC) programs. Additionally, the Division is a key agency within the State who can trigger provisions of the Stafford Act (Fire Suppression Assistance) which provides for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding assistance in situations where forest and grass fires on public or private lands threaten a major disaster to communities and economies.

Historically, the Division relied on a system of district fire wardens to help suppress fires in rural settings. Because of their location and distribution throughout the islands, many plantations and ranchers served an effective network of partners who could respond with their manpower and equipment to extinguish wildland fires in a timely fashion. Decline in these industries saw the demise of this special partnership within the past decade. In the meantime, local fire departments improved their capabilities by increasing the number of stations and firemen principally in response to the growth of the islands’ population and the resultant urban sprawl. The improved fire protection served to provide extended coverage to rural and wildland areas as well. However, there was a need to clarify these relationships because DOFAW, which has no full-time firefighters like the dedicated fire services, was often requested to respond to fire situations outside its legal jurisdiction. The consequence was the rapid depletion of its own fire suppression funding and subsequent inability to address fire threats on land under its own jurisdiction. To still meet its legal fire protection mandate for state-owned lands and honor its partnership with other fire services, DOFAW negotiated with its local fire departments and established a cooperative mechanism for prevention, presuppression and suppression measures by way of the current Memorandum of Agreements. Fire Maps were also drawn to delineate agency fire responsibilities.

The personnel of the Division of Forestry and Wildlife are primarily natural resource managers. We are not full-time wildland firefighters. Firefighting is but one of the many aspects that make up our Division.

Annual Reports

Annual accomplishments are based on statewide prevention, presuppression, and suppression activities. An annual report is generated based on these accomplishments. A copy of the results is sent to Region 5 of the U.S. Forest Service to fulfill its obligation under the Cooperative Fire Assistance Program.

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Click to view annual reports by fiscal year:

1999  ||  2000  ||  2001  ||  2002  ||  2003

2004  ||  2005  ||  2006  ||  2007  ||  2008

2009 ||  2010  ||  2011  ||  2012  ||  2013

Why We Do It

The following pictures illustrates why we feel it is important to undertake an aggressive approach to preventing wildfires. The State of Hawai‘i has the dubious distinction of being the endangered species capitol of the world. It is our job, then, to protect these plant and animal species from further extinction and protect them from the ravages of wildfires.

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photo acknowledgements: iiwi by Jack Jeffreys, ohia by Maile Sakamoto…all other photos are the property of the Department of Land and Natural Resources