Maui News

DLNR issues warning to prevent Christmas tree bonfires at Kāne’ohe Bay sandbar

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Kaneʻohe Sandbar Christmas Tree Burning. File January 2021. Video courtesy DLNR

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is issuing a proactive warning in advance of any rumored plans for illegal Christmas tree bonfires at Ahu O Laka (Kāne’ohe Bay sandbar).

DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement Chief Jason Redulla said, “We receive tips about tree burnings every year and dispatch DOCARE officers to He‘eia Kea Small Boat Harbor, the point-of-departure for boats heading to the sandbar. Unfortunately, we can’t always identify the individuals involved in these illegal and disrespectful activities.”  

Department officials say this activity is not only a violation of State Administrative Rules, but also is destructive to both ocean and terrestrial natural resources. The department reports that in recent years, photographs on social media sites have shown large numbers of people congregating as tree-fueled fires burn in the background.


Redulla said, “People haul their trees to Ahu O Laka by boat and burning them is detrimental to the sandbar and the surrounding marine ecosystem. In January of this year numerous photos on social media showed these people clearly ignoring COVID-19 mandates, in effect on O‘ahu at that time.” 

“Ahu o Laka is a sacred place,” said Leialoha “Rocky” Kaluhiwa, president of the Koʻolaupoko Hawaiian Civic Club. “We strongly discourage anyone from taking their ʻopala (discarded items like Christmas trees) to light bonfires on Ahu o Laka.”  Kaluhiwa said Chief Laka is an ancestor to Hawaiian families who currently reside in the Kaneʻohe bay area. 

The activity is considered criminal littering. Open burning is prohibited with a few exceptions such as cooking, fire training, and agricultural burning with a valid permit. Since January 2012, “backyard” burning of garbage and yard waste has been prohibited on all islands. 


DOCARE relies greatly on expeditious reporting of natural and cultural resources violations, by people who witness them. There are two ways to report incidents: 643-DLNR (3567) or via the free DLNRTip app available on both iPhone and Android devices.  

“Clearly, our officers cannot be everywhere, all the time, and the faster we receive reports about illegal activities, the better chance we have of responding in time to educate violators, and when necessary to cite them. All we ask is for everyone to respect the ʻāina,” Redulla said. 


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