09/07/23-ONE MONTH AFTER OLINDA WILDFIRE IGNITED DAILY FIRE WATCH CONTINUESPosted on Sep 7, 2023 in Forestry & Wildlife, Main, Media, Natural Area Reserves, News Releases, slider, Wildfire
|JOSH GREEN, M.D.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2023
ONE MONTH AFTER OLINDA WILDFIRE IGNITED DAILY FIRE WATCH CONTINUES
To view video please click on photo
(WAIHOU SPRING FOREST RESERVE, MAUI) – Indicative of serious drought conditions, in upcountry Maui, is the need for daily attention along the fire lines of the 1,000-acre Olinda fire. It started the same day, August 8, as the devastating fire that leveled Lāhainā town and left hundreds dead or unaccounted for.
The Waihou Spring Forest Reserve was established in 1909 and this year it and all forests and pastures on the western and southern slopes of Haleakalā could be experiencing the driest conditions anyone remembers.
Each and every day, a four-person team from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) patrols the lines established in the forest reserve and on adjacent private ranch land to douse hot spots and smokers.
On Wednesday, Chris Chow a DOFAW forester out on fire watch observed, “I’m born and raised on Maui, and I’ve never seen upcountry as dry as it is this year. I was looking at old satellite images and you can see that it’s progressively getting drier, like all upcountry is completely brown. These roads that we’re driving, you can tell this place is dry based on the soil. It is just powder. Just walking on it, you’ve got powder everywhere. The vegetation is just so crispy. When it was catching fire, it was like within seconds an entire bush would be consumed.”
This fire is stubborn and like ones before it, could continue smoldering deep into the roots of trees for as long as two months.
Standing near a mammoth tree that toppled during the fire, DOFAW’s John Neizman said, “What we have here is one tree that fell over, and the inside is burning. So, we had to do some notching and then add water just to get the hotspot inside a tree.”
That’s one tree. Dozens of others continue smoking and that’s the reason the DOFAW team continues their daily reconnaissance. Their tools include a 4,000-gallon contract water tanker, one of DOFAW’s 250-gallon pumper trucks, portable water bags, shovels, and Pulaski’s (a specialized tool used in wildland firefighting).
In addition to be sure the fire is 100% controlled and out cold, given the current state of heightened awareness about wildfires, Chow added, “Truly one of the biggest things that comes out of these patrols is showing a presence, because right now everyone’s on edge. Anytime people see smoke pop up, they call 911. And so, our purpose here is letting the Maui Fire Department and other first responders take care of other things and then we can just handle things here.”
Despite the Maui fires receiving worldwide media coverage, attention, and concern, Chow and his DOFAW firefighting colleagues are astounded to hear reports of people having bonfires and lighting fireworks nearby in the Kula Forest Reserve and Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area.
“Especially right now that kind of stuff is totally discouraged…any kind of open flame, even barbecues. People need to calm down on that kind of stuff until we get through this dry season. Literally anything from a cigarette butt to a hot catalytic converter parked over dry grass can start a wildfire instantly. This place is a tinder box for sure,” Chow added.
“There’s been so much suffering, loss of life, and property destruction, we hope everyone will take on wildfire prevention as their personal kuleana (responsibility),” concluded DOFAW Maui Branch Manager Scott Fretz.
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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR)
HD video – On Olinda Fire Watch (web feature):
HD video – Olinda fire watch (Sept. 6, 2023):
Photographs – Olinda fire watch (Sept. 6, 2023):
Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources