Crews continue to monitor Olinda fire for hot spots and smokers two-months later
Two days shy of the two-month anniversary of the start of the 1,000-acre Olinda Fire, daily fire patrols continue, according to a state Department of Land and Natural Resources news release. Firefighters from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife continue checking for hot spots and smokers.
Holding a device that looks like a flashlight, DOFAW’s Bill Evanson demonstrates a portable heat detector that he uses to help find still smoldering logs, trunks and trees. When hot areas are detected, the device emits a loud, screeching sound. “It’s one of the tools we have available as we do these daily fire watches,” Evanson explained.
The fire crew’s daily routine involves driving a brush truck around the perimeter of the fire numerous times, according to state officials. Much of the route is along fire breaks created by bulldozers to keep the fire from spreading. Those roads show just how dry much of upcountry Maui is, with the last measurable rain a distant memory. Fine, red dust obscures the vision of anyone driving behind the fire pumper.
“Normally, we’d begin seeing some rainy season precipitation, but this year it’s incredibly dry. It doesn’t take much to ignite fires in these conditions,” Evanson said.
Four wildfires (Olinda, Kula, Pūlehu, and Lahaina) were sparked on Aug. 8, 2023. According to a Sept. 27 update, the Olinda fire was 95% contained with 1,081 acres burned; the Kula fire was 96% contained with 202 acres burned; and the Lahaina fire was 100% contained with an estimated 2,170 acres burned.
The Maui Fire Department advised the public that extinguishing the Upcountry fires may take an extended period of time given the large burn area and the nature of the rural terrain.
During their patrols on Thursday, the crew discovered an imu, so named for the pits used to roast pigs. A large Eucalyptus tree, scorched from top to bottom had wisps of smoke escaping at ground level. The crew emptied the tanker’s entire 300-gallons of water on the hot spot before refilling it at a nearby hydrant and continuing the fire watch.
Evanson said, “Due to the heightened awareness and sensitivity about wildfire now, we want to ensure that this fire is out cold.” He says he’s not surprised to find fire still smoldering deep into the roots of trees. “These are the stubborn ones that require trained noses and eyes to ferret out.”
Fire agencies across the state are encouraging people to exercise extreme caution to avoid igniting wildfires. David Smith, DOFAW Administrator said, “Climate change is real. We’re seeing it around us and unfortunately in tragic ways, given the loss of life and property devastation in Lahaina. No one wants to see a repeat of that.”