David Y. Ige | DLNR Press Release: A UNIQUE HAWAI’I WILDLAND FIRE FIGHTING TEAM HELPS PROTECT THREE MILLION ACRES OF FOREST
DLNR Press Release: A UNIQUE HAWAI’I WILDLAND FIRE FIGHTING TEAM HELPS PROTECT THREE MILLION ACRES OF FOREST
Posted on November 29, 2021 in Latest News, Press Room
(HONOLULU) – By day, they take on a wide range of conservation jobs within DLNR’s Forestry and Wildlife Division (DOFAW). At night, or whenever a wildfire breaks out or spreads to state forests, some of the approximately 140 DOFAW employees statewide under fire response grab their equipment and firefighting apparatus. against the fire and leave.
Most of the time, Ryan Peralta is a DOFAW Forest Management Supervisor, but has decades of experience fighting forest fires. Many times he is the incident commander at the scene, directing crews and equipment to hot spots and outbreaks.
“The people who work for DOFAW want to be in the forest and work with wildlife. Instead of planting trees, we could put out a fire. Instead of releasing game birds, we may be fighting fires. We love it, but it’s sad to see the fire damage to the forest and the watershed, ”said Peralta.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, up to twenty DOFAW firefighters helped control a fire in Kalihi, which had spread throughout the Honolulu Forest Preserve.
Tools of their trade include shovels, portable and truck-mounted water tanks, Pulaski, helicopters and a ton of common sense and training on how to fight flames safely.
Peralta cites the Land Fires Act Chapter 185, which makes DOFAW firefighters the first and primary responders to fires in all forest reserves, nature reserves, wildlife sanctuaries and all lands under jurisdiction. of the division.
Mike Walker is the state protection forester who is responsible for the management and administration of the DOFAW fire team. He has developed the training that staff members need. “At a minimum, they should be trained in forest firefighting by passing two courses from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, which sets the national standards for forest fire training. Many of our employees are also trained in helicopter operations, as well as other specialty and leadership training, ”explained Walker.
Fighting fires – whatever the type – of structure or wasteland, is physically demanding, dirty, smoky and sometimes dangerous work. This is why safety is always the key consideration and the training of firefighters focuses heavily on how to work safely.
One of the main differences between municipal fire departments and the wildland firefighting team, as Peralta points out, is that structure fires are usually much shorter. A forest fire can burn for days or even weeks. ” This is a difficult work. Long hours and a lot of physical work, hard and a lot of constantly looking at the same person until the fire is out. We go there every day until the fire is out. The principles are the same, put the wet stuff on the red stuff, just be careful and do what you have to do, ”commented Peralta.
The Kalihi area fire, called the Kahauiki Last Char fire, burned about 50 acres. Not large by mainland standards, but as a percentage of total land mass, Hawai’i loses as much area to forest fires each year as most Western states. Climate change experts predict that in the decades to come, the world will see higher and more ferocious wildfire frequencies.
In Hawai’i, like in most other places, there is no longer a fire season. Now fires can and do happen every month of the year here and elsewhere. Most of the fires fought by the DOFAW team are the result of unattended campfires in the forest. This latest fire is more unusual in that it burned down in what is known as the forest-urban interface, called WUI in the firefighting community.
“It started above the apartments, passed the ridge and started to descend on an access road on the other side and could have reached hundreds of houses in Fort. Shaver. For the fires in the WUI, we play a role in protecting structures and of course lives, ”said Jason Misaki, Kahauiki Last Char fire commander.
His “regular job” is that of DOFAW O’ahu Branch Wildlife Program Director. “It’s football season. I watch football a lot, but if we get a call on a Sunday, let’s go… let’s go and get down to business. Everyone comes together and everyone is enthusiastic and passionate about the work. It’s game day every time, ”said Misaki.
# # #
(All images / video courtesy of: DLNR)
HD Video – “The Wildland Firefighting Force of Hawai’i” (Web feature):
HD Video – The late Kahauiki Last Char and SOT (November 28, 2021):
(Shooting sheet / transcripts attached)
HD Video – Kahauiki Last Char fire, content submitted by staff:
Photographs – The late Kahauiki Last Char (November 28, 2021):
Senior Communications Officer
Hawaii Department of Lands and Natural Resources