Emergency teams across Hawaiʻi prepare for Red Flag weather
The Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency and emergency managers in all counties are taking steps to prepare for rising winds and low humidity that could increase the risk of wildfires.
The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for all islands through 6 p.m. Monday, indicating that low humidity and gusty winds may cause fires that start to spread rapidly and behave in less-predictable ways. A High Wind Advisory also is in effect for the eastern islands, with winds strengthening statewide today and gusts of 50 mph possible through Monday.
“With drought conditions in place statewide, we’re one bad spark away from a new wildfire, so we and our partners are on alert,” said HI-EMA Administrator James Barros. “The first responders and the counties are the front line of defense and we’re here to support them if they need it.”
All four counties and the State Emergency Operations Center have been partially activated since Sunday morning to monitor conditions and provide mutual support as needed.
Spotters are positioned today at observation points in high-risk areas of West Maui, Māʻalaea and South Maui to monitor wind and ground conditions and fire risk.
Maui Fire Department crews were continuing to monitor an 11-acre brush fire in Kāʻanapali that was called 100% contained at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. The fire was reported at 1:45 p.m. Saturday south of Kapalua Airport. The cause is under investigation.
Governor Josh Green, M.D., met Sunday morning with representatives of HI-EMA, the county emergency management agencies, the National Weather Service, the Hawai‘i National Guard and other key partners. Such a coordination call is standard practice before any serious hazard to discuss resource deployment and any pre-impact needs.
HI-EMA was already coordinating additional military fire-suppression aircraft that have been helping the City and County of Honolulu with fighting the Kīpapa Ballroom Fire in steep, difficult to access terrain above Mililani. Honolulu reported Sunday that fire had been 85% contained and posed no hazard to communities, but that contingency plans are in place if higher winds increase the threat.
“The people of Hawai‘i have seen how quickly a wildfire can spread and the devastation it can bring – Maui is still coping with the consequences,” Barros said. “We want to assure everyone that we are keeping close watch, but we need your help to reduce risk.”
To reduce the chance of wildfires, the public can:
- Avoid outdoor burning or any activity that causes embers or sparks. That can include use of power tools or dragging chains from a trailer or other moving vehicle.
- Do not throw cigarette butts from vehicles.
- Do not park on vegetation – a vehicle exhaust system can be hot enough to ignite it.
- Remove dry brush from around structures.
- Clear debris from gutters, where an ember could land.
For more information on wildfire safety, visit the Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization.