Costs that Threaten Hawaiÿi’s Past, Present, and Future.
By Kühea Paracuelles
Our attitude towards fire is largely shaped by our experience with it. The early Hawaiians found it useful for clearing large tracts of land to establish their house sites and agriculture lands. On the flip side, fire represents devastation for those who have lost a home or business. Wildfires are one of the greatest threats to our island ecology and economy, but very few people are aware of this.
The recent wildfire in the Lalamilo-Waikoloa area on the Island of Hawai‘i took five days to put out and required the help of many agencies. Personnel and equipment costs totaled nearly $500,000.00, much more than the State budget allows for wildfire suppression. Once the fire is contained, the work begins to figure out the extent of what was lost and how to recover after such a destructive event. Unfortunately, funding for post-fire restoration activities is virtually non-existent.
Perhaps the most precious resource lost in a wildfire is the native ecosystem, along with all of the flora and fauna it supports. A single wildfire can push a species into extinction, followed quickly by everything else that is supported by that particular plant or animal. Native ecosystems and species provide the foundation of Hawai‘i’s unique natural and cultural heritage. Kama‘āina and visitors alike share the responsibility of protecting our environment, ensuring that native traditions and practices will live on.
Here are a few tips on wildfire prevention:
When working with equipment like weed eaters, cutting torches and the like, do not set them down when hot on or near dry grass and other woody vegetation.
Put out cooking fires and campfires completely.
Be aware that when hot, the catalytic converter on the underside of your vehicle can start a fire. Do not park on dry and tall grassy areas.
Safegard your home. Maintain 30 feet of space surrounding your home that is kept neat, green and clean. Clear away any dry, woody vegetation that can transfer fire to your home.
For more detailed information on making your home or business fire safe, visit www.firewise.org. To learn more about wildfire prevention, call the West Hawai‘i Fire Management Organization at (808) 885-0900. Help protect your island home today!