Firefighters continue to battle three brush fires burning in remote areas of mauka Kona, according to Mayor Billy Kenois office Tuesday evening.
The three brush fires currently burning in difficult-to-access terrain near the 4,000-foot level are not threatening lives or property. No injuries or property losses have been reported.
The fires are located at Yee Hop Ranch, Hokukano Ranch and Kealakekua Ranch. Each of the fires has been contained and firefighters are continuing to apply water around the perimeters of the fires.
The Yee Hop and Hokukano ranch fires are expected to be extinguished by Wednesday. The Kealakekua ranch fire could continue to burn for several days.
Fire breaks have been bulldozed around each fire and county firefighters are at each location with heavy equipment, continuing to monitor each fires progress.
The altitude of the fires prevents County helicopters from making water drops. The Hokukano fire also is burning below a thick canopy of trees that would prevent enough water from reaching the fire to extinguish it.
Were not abandoning these fires, Kenoi said. After a thorough assessment and collective analysis, we are employing the most prudent and strategic measures to extinguish these fires with the most practical means possible.
Kenoi will assess the fires progress personally from a county helicopter on Wednesday morning.
The Yee Hop and Kealakekua ranch fires are believed to have been ignited by lightning. The cause of the Hokukano fire is still under investigation.
We will continue to have resources on scene and deploy what strategies we feel are prudent and most effective to mitigate the fires and minimize any threat to the community, County Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira said.
Smoke from the fires has caused some discomfort for Kona area residents with respiratory problems. The state Department of Health is monitoring the air quality conditions and had detected some sporadic, elevated levels of particulates in the air at monitoring sites in Kona attributed to both the VOG and recent fires.
Residents are cautioned to use fireworks this weekend with extreme care and consideration for others who may be affected by the additional smoke. Fireworks users should also be aware of the extremely dry conditions caused by drought and be very careful.
Chief Oliveira warned this is just the beginning of what is expected to be a very difficult fire season.
Three ranch land fires continue to spew smoke across South Kona skies Tuesday evening. Heres the updated status on the fires as of 3 p.m. Tuesday:
* HOKUKANO RANCH: Located approximately six miles above Konawaena High School. 1,425 acres affected 100% contained. Fire is being monitored by ranch personnel, no county Fire Department personnel on scene.
* KEALAKEKUA RANCH: Located approximately seven miles above Kealakekua Ranch Center. 250 acres affected 50 percent breaks are cut. Three bulldozers, one helicopter, one tanker, and one brush truck on scene.
* HONOMALINO: Located approximately six miles above the 93 mile marker. 30 acres affected 75 percent contained. Two bulldozers, and one brush truck on scene.
The cause of these fires has not been determined. However, officials believe they may have been started naturally, by lightning for example.
Kealakekua brush fire aerial, Tuesday, Dec. 29 (Photo courtesy of The Mayor’s Office)
The Wednesday afternoon update from Fire Dispatch on the Kealakekua Ranch brush fire: 800 acres affected; fire is 100 percent contained.
Fire breaks are cut. Two sides of the fire within the break still has active burning and are expected to continue burning for at least a couple of days.
Resources at scene: Four bulldozers, one water tanker, one brush truck, and one helicopter.
The two other fires at Yee Hop Ranch and at Hokukano Ranch also are fully contained and are close to being extinguished.
Mayor Billy Kenoi flew over the area by helicopter Wednesday morning to survey damage.
Statement from Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira:
I apologize for previous quoted misinformation.
The Hawaii Fire Department personnel are working very hard along with our partners from Pohakuloa Training Area and the owner of Kealakekua Ranch to try to extinguish a very difficult fire.
The fire is in a forested area of the ranch land and extremely difficult to access and with the forest canopy it is near impossible to have effective helicopter water drop operations. Crews are working on the ground and with the use of bulldozers we have contained the fire and are now trying to extinguish what can be accessed.
The terrain is rough, making access very challenging. With the vegetation being dry enough to burn, but still a bit green, the burned matter is generating a great deal of smoke. It is our every intention to try to extinguish this fire as quickly and safely as possible.
Money is not the issue and what may have been misquoted was my response to questions of how much do these types of fire cost. What was conveyed to the reporter and misquoted was that sometimes strategies can include letting some of the fuel burn out if it will reduce the threat of future fire spread or other fires starting, as well as, if the fire cannot be extinguished, and most importantly, if burning the fuel out poses no hazard or risk to the community.
Obviously, the smoke is a hazard, and therefore, we are trying to extinguish the fire as quickly as possible. I am in direct contact with the Department of Health and are working with them on monitoring the air quality as it relates to the fires and the VOG.
After a busy New Year’s Eve, Honolulu firefighters renewed their call yesterday for a complete ban on consumer fireworks.
“They’re a threat to the community,” said Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Terry Seelig. “In the past five years we have asked the Legislature for a complete ban on consumer fireworks. O’ahu is too densely populated and the behavior is putting people at risk.”
Firefighters responded to 16 incidents on New Year’s Eve that appeared to be fireworks-related. They ran the gamut from structure fires to rubbish fires, Seelig said. None of the fires caused major damage.
On New Year’s Eve 2008, there were 14 probable fireworks-related incidents.
Meanwhile, paramedics responded to three fireworks-related incidents, including two that left people seriously injured, said city Emergency Services Department spokesman Bryan Cheplic.
The first happened about 12:06 a.m. yesterday in Waipahu, when a man in his 30s was taken to a hospital in serious condition. At 12:15 a.m., a man in his late teens sustained fireworks-related injuries in Wai’anae and was taken in serious condition to a local hospital.
Paramedics also responded to a call in Waimalu of a child under 10 who was apparently injured by fireworks. The child was treated and released at the scene.
Seelig said there were many reports on New Year’s Eve of illegal aerial displays.
He also said that he heard people are tampering with the fireworks and making bigger explosive devises.
On New Year’s Eve, there were nine brushfires that were probably caused by fireworks, Seelig said. That’s nearly four times more wildland fires than on New Year’s Eve in 2008.
Rains that swept through O’ahu around 9 p.m. on New Year’s Eve helped control any fires from getting out of control, Seelig said.
“From our (HFD) point of view, it was a fairly typical New Year’s Eve,” he said. “What we saw was a lot of smoke, small nuisance fires that had the potential to grow.”
From midnight to 8:45 p.m. yesterday, there were 37 fires that were probably fireworks-related, including a brushfire in Hawai’i Kai.
That blaze started about 11:22 a.m. near the entrance to the Hawaii Kai Golf Course. Seelig said the brushfire burned about five acres before it was extinguished at 2:10 p.m.
The fire did not endanger any homes or structures.
While the fire was under way, firefighters had to briefly close Kalaniana’ole Highway in the area. About 30 firefighters helped put out the fire, along with two helicopters making water drops.
The other fires yesterday that were probably related to fireworks included 16 rubbish fires and eight Dumpster fires.
The noisy New Year’s Eve also spurred other calls for bans and more enforcement.
Since 1999, state Rep. Mark Takai, D-34th (‘Aiea, Pearl City) has introduced legislation six times to ban fireworks, except for public displays or for religious or ceremonial occasions . Each time the measures have failed.
“The difference this year is that the incidents of abuse with fireworks has increased and stretched over time,” Takai said. “We started hearing these loud bomb- sounding noises even before Halloween.”
Next month when the state Legislature convenes, Takai said he will again introduce legislation to ban fireworks.
“I only hope that if we had a total ban, then we could control everything,” Takai said. “We tried in 2001 to curb fireworks with the permitting process, but clearly that hasn’t helped.”
Some 7,433 fireworks permits were sold at satellite city halls as of Dec. 30, compared to 6,200 last year.
The $25 permits allow residents to buy 5,000 individual firecrackers. Permits are not needed for other novelty fireworks, such as sparklers.
Aerial fireworks are illegal, unless they’re for special displays.
Larry Veray, a Waiau resident and member of the Pearl City Neighborhood Board, would like to see a ban of fireworks go through.
He said he’s tired of hearing the loud kabooms and watching the illegal aerials.
“You have to ask, where does it all come from,” Veray said. “It’s scary when you have that many aerials as we had this year. We have to do something about them.”