(BIVN) – A Red Flag Warning is in effect for parts of Hawaiʻi island through Thursday afternoon, officials say, as gusty winds and low humidity will elevate the risk of wildfire, especially in leeward areas.
“Dry fuels combined with strong and gusty trade winds and low humidity will produce critical fire weather conditions tonight through Thursday afternoon,” the National Weather Service stated. “It is important to note that the winds for this event WILL NOT be comparable in strength to the August 8, 2023 event, where wind gusts of over 60 mph were observed.”
Trade winds 15 to 30 mph – with gusts of 40 to 50 mph – will be possible, with the strongest wind gusts downwind of higher terrain. This, in combination with dry fuels and minimum humidities of 45% to 55% percent tonight – lowering 35% to 45% percent on Thursday – could lead to “extreme fire behavior.”
In a Wednesday news release, Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth and Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno urged the community “to take necessary steps in preparation”.
“We’re asking our residents to protect each other by being cautious and remaining mindful in their actions,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “Last time we had similar conditions, multiple fires sprung up along our leeward coast. These fires can potentially put our firefighters and communities at large in harm’s way. By remaining mindful and refraining from potentially risky behaviors, we can significantly reduce the chances of large brushfires this time around.”
“This is a kākou situation, where we all have to do our part to protect our communities,” said James Barros, Administrator of Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency.
The County has already cancelled Thursday camping permits for the following Beach Parks:
- Kohala: Māhukona and Spencer
- Kona: Kohanaiki
- Kaʻū: Punaluʻu and Whittington Beach Parks.
The Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense also announced the following:
- All open flames, use of fire pits and grills on County property is prohibited.
- Please avoid all outdoor activity that involves an open flame, such as outdoor cooking or other fire ignition source, such as welding and grinding metal.
- Please avoid parking of vehicles on dry grass after travel.
- Secure outdoor items and mitigate fire safety concerns on your property.
The County says more information on wildfire prevention can be found on the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization website.
The National Weather Service has also issued a Wind Advisory for areas of Kohala, Hāmākua, Hilo, and Puna. “Winds this strong can tear off shingles, knock down tree branches, blow away tents and awnings and make it difficult to steer, especially for drivers of high profile vehicles,” forecasters said.