(BIVN) – Drought conditions persist in Hawaiʻi, one month after deadly wildfires consumed over 6,600 acres of land on Maui.
“Dryness and drought are now well-established across Hawaii,” wrote the U.S. Drought Monitor on September 7. “Precipitation was not absent, but was unremarkable this past week, and the state’s areas of dryness and drought are unchanged from last week.”
Most of Hawaiʻi island is either Abnormally Dry or under Moderate Drought, according to the Drought Monitor map. There are two swaths of Severe Drought on the Big Island: one on the east side of Kaʻū, and the other on the northwest side of Maunakea in the South Kohala district.
Under Severe Drought, pasture conditions are usually very dry, crops and cattle struggle, reservoir levels are low, and fire danger is high.
Its been one month since deadly fires burned across West Maui, where dry conditions played a part in the inferno that destroyed Lahaina and caused 115 confirmed fatalities.
In upcountry Maui, where the 1,000-acre Olinda fire is 90% contained, there is a need for daily attention along the fire lines. A four-person team from the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife patrols the lines established in the forest reserve and ranch lands to douse hot spots.
“I’m born and raised on Maui, and I’ve never seen upcountry as dry as it is this year,” said DOFAW forester Chris Chow. “I was looking at old satellite images and you can see that it’s progressively getting drier, like all upcountry is completely brown. These roads that we’re driving, you can tell this place is dry based on the soil. It is just powder. Just walking on it, you’ve got powder everywhere. The vegetation is just so crispy. When it was catching fire, it was like within seconds an entire bush would be consumed.”
Responding to reports of people having bonfires and lighting fireworks nearby in the Kula Forest Reserve, Chow said, “people need to calm down on that kind of stuff until we get through this dry season. Literally anything from a cigarette butt to a hot catalytic converter parked over dry grass can start a wildfire instantly. This place is a tinder box for sure,” Chow added.
This week, U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono and Brian Schatz both spoke on the Senate floor, in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the Maui fires.
“This disaster did not simply impact a collection of numbers or statistics, it impacted a community of people, tightknit and proud—business owners, who served as stewards of family-owned shops and restaurants passed down through generations; immigrants who came to Maui in search of a better life for themselves and their families; firefighters, who raced into horrific, toxic conditions to try and save the town they loved, even as many of their own homes burned to the ground mere miles away; and so many more who called Lahaina home,” said Senator Hirono.