By David Corrigan
HAWAII ISLAND – There is an “above normal” potential for significant wildland fires in leeward areas of Hawaii Island this summer.
New maps released by National Interagency Fire Center show a higher than usual likelihood that wildland fires will occur and/or become significant events in the months of July and August.
According to the National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook executive summary, issued on May 1, 2013:
Expect near normal significant wildland fire potential for Hawaii throughout the outlook period, except for July and August on portions of the southern islands. Most areas have been alleviated of severe drought, except for portions of the Big Island. Near normal temperature and precipitation are expected throughout the outlook period.
As existing drought conditions in West Hawaii are expected to persist or intensify, South Kohala and North Kona will be under an “above normal” fire threat. Many living in that area are already well aware of the dangers of wildfire, and are no stranger to red flag warnings. A portion of Maui will also be on alert at that same time.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell commented on the summer season’s wildfire outlook during a visit to the NIFC in Boise, Idaho on Monday. The outlook for the fire season is severe across much of the Western United States.
|Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack||
|Interior Secretary Sally Jewell||
|U.S. Fire Administrator, Ernie Mitchell||
According to a joint media release:
This year, significant fire potential is predicted to be above normal in much of the West, including almost all of Arizona, New Mexico, California, Oregon and Idaho; and portions of Montana, Colorado, Utah, and Washington. In 2012, 9.3 million acres of private, state, and federal land, and more than 4,400 structures burned in wildfires. That was the third highest number of acres burned since at least 1960, the earliest date with reliable records.
On average, Forest Service and Interior agencies respond to tens of thousands of wildfires per year, suppressing all but a small percentage during the first burning period. However, the few fires that cannot be suppressed during the initial stages run the risk of becoming much larger.
Federal assets include more than 13,000 firefighters, including permanent and seasonal federal employees; more than 1,600 engines; up to 26 multiengine air tankers and two water scooper aircrafts; approximately 27 single engine air tankers; and hundreds of helicopters. At the National Interagency Fire Center, firefighting experts from multiple government agencies continuously monitor fire activity, weather and fuel conditions while strategically positioning Federal firefighters, ground equipment and aircraft to support wildfires across the country as the season shifts.
Officials urged residents of the more than 70,000 communities at risk from wildfires to plan ahead. Resources are available at fireadapted.org; and through the ” Firewise,” and ” Ready, Set, Go!” programs.