VIDEO: Volcano community struggles with severe drought

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Tinder of a dead ohia tree adds to wildfire danger - courtesy Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

September 28, 2010 – Volcano, Hawaii

Video by Tim Bryan

Mobile version of video

A community meeting was held on Tuesday evening to discuss the drought and fire hazard situation that is affecting the Volcano area.

Staff from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park joined other officials and residents for a discussion at the Volcano Golf Course clubhouse. A number of closures and restrictions have been enacted around the national park in an attempt to prevent brushfires.

Earlier that same day, Joe Molhoek, a Pacific Area Fire Management Officer with the National Park Service, explains the dangers that surround the community in the form of dry vegetation, while crews work to mitigate the situation by cutting down dead trees.

Since last December, a mere 3 inches have fallen in areas of the park that would normally receive 50 inches or more annually.

From the National Park media release issued before the meeting:

The fire severity situation within and, in certain areas, adjacent to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is at an all time high.

Since last December, a mere 3” of rain have fallen in areas of the park that would normally receive 50” or more annually. Residents, and even visitors, have noticed that native plants such as koa, ‘ohi‘a, pukiawe, and uluhe are turning brown, dropping leaves, and dying due to the prolonged drought in and adjacent to the park. The tinder adds to the wildfire hazard.

On Tuesday, September 28, 2010 from 5:00 to 6:30 pm, national park and Hawaii county fire officials will hold a community meeting at the Volcano Golf Course clubhouse to discuss current conditions.

A target audience is owners and residents of Volcano Golf Course and Subdivision, Volcano Winery, Kapapala Ranch, Keauhou Bird Conservation Center, and Keauhou Ranch/Kamehameha Schools Bishop Estate – adjacent properties that continue to be impacted by the drought.

This will be an opportunity for residents to meet the firefighters and hear what resources they have in place to battle wildfires. It is also an opportunity to learn the steps residents should take now to prevent a wildfire and actions to take in event of a wildfire.

Officials hope the meeting will stimulate Fire Wise behavior—prevention and preparedness— and encourage neighbors to work together to prevent loss. We all play a role in protecting the park, ourselves, and each other from the risk of wildfire.

In attendance: Cindy Orlando – Superintendent of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Rhonda Loh – Chief of Natural Resources Management for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Warren Sumida – On-duty Battalion Chief for Hawaii Fire Department, A” Platoon Company-19 of the Hawaii Fire Department, and Denise Laitinen – Hawaii State Firewise Coordinator.

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