Weather officials predict increased brush fire activity
  • Friday, February 15, 2019
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Weather officials predict increased brush fire activity

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Charred kiawe trees are seen near Makaha Beach Park on Saturday.

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Weather officials expect more brush fires in the coming months as Hawaii enters the peak of fire season.

Leeward Oahu has seen below normal rainfall levels this summer with just .02 inches on average in June, compared to the normal of about half an inch — the most recent data available, said Derek Wroe, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service.

“It’s usually a dry time of the year to begin with, but it’s definitely below normal,” he said.

Leeward Oahu is experiencing a “moderate drought,” following a mostly drought-free first half of the year, he said.

Fueling the fire is the build up of grasses and brush following a “good amount of rainfall last year” and breezy conditions that are expected to continue.

”We tend to get a lot of growth in the brush … especially across the Leeward portions of the state. There’s a lot more fuel available,” Wroe said. “When you get a combination of these hot and dry conditions with a good amount of fuel that’s ready to burn and then largely we’ve had some fairly strong tradewinds, it creates a situation where you have an elevated fire danger.”

More than 100 firefighters continue to battle separate brush fires in Leeward Oahu.

In Makaha Valley, where at least 2,500 acres burned, 79 firefighters and 27 trucks helped fight the blaze that is 30 percent contained. No injuries or damaged structures were reported.

In Waianae Valley, a fire destroyed about 1,500 acres so far and five farm-type structures. One minor injury was reported; the blaze is 40 percent contained, down from 50 percent.

“It must have increased in size but right now that has not been determined,” said Honolulu Fire Department Fire Captain Scot Seguirant.

HFD is ramping up efforts to contain the wild fires with help from federal and state airport firefighters, as well as the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife and the military, which is assisting with air drops, he said.

On Saturday, the brush fires forced road closures and the evacuation of some Makaha and Waianae residents. There is a possibility of additional evacuations as crews continue into the evening.

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