Senator Josh Green Asks Governor Lingle for Help With Kona Fires and the Response

Senator Josh Green sent the following email off  YESTERDAY to Governor Lingle regarding the Kona Brush Fires:

Dear Gov,

Could you please institute some emergency support to quell the fires in West Hawaii .

It has become a health hazard.



Governor Lingles Response:

Josh, thanks for bringing this to my attention. Via a copy of this email I am asking General Lee to contact Big Island Civil Defense to determine if and what kind of help they might need. I have copied DLNR Director Thielen as well as my Chief of Staff so we are all linked in when General Lee receives a response from Big Island Civil Defense. Aloha, Gov

Untold Story of Tragic Mauka Forest Fires by Charles Flaherty

The following was submitted by Big Island Resident Charles Flaherty:

“Aloha e,

The media continues to mistakenly refer to the recent and on-going noxious mauka fires as brush fires.  They are not…these fires are occurring within native forests filled with numerous endangered and threatened plant and animal species.

Topping it all off was Sunday’s incredibly insensitive “Fire Sale” ad in West Hawai’i Today complete with a photo of the still smoking forest that is choking thousands of residents each night (see attached).

I have attached the state Board of Land and Natural Resource’s “Approval in Principle for Acquisition of Perpetual Conservation Easement” for the mauka 9,000 acres of the 11,570 acre Kealakekua Ranch.  The United States Congress provided the agency with $2,000,000 to purchase 4,000 acres with another installment of $2 million due to purchase the remaining 5,000 acres.

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The area that is burning “contains many different forest types, including mixed open forest, closed ‘ohi’a lehua rainforest, open koa forest with mamane, and open koa forest.  This forest mosaic supports a wide variety of federally listed threatended and endangered plant and animal species.

The document goes on to describe the “Need for Acquisition…Due to agricultural zoning, forest in Kona are threatened by conversion to non-forest uses.  Sales for development would result in drastic changes to the area’s rare habitat and important watershed needs.  Since its recent purchase of the property, Seller [the Pace family] has received multiple offers to purchase for the purpose of completing the existing development entitlements.  In addition to development concerns, Kona’s forests are threatened by the spread of invasive non-native plants and feral ungulates, all of which increase wildfire susceptibility and decrease natural forest regeneration.

The acquisition will insure preservation of the forested areas of the property through an on-going management plan by Kealakekua Heritage Ranch LLC, as required by the conservation easement.  The management plan shall be implemented by Kealakekua Heritage Ranch LLC with oversight by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife.”

Has anyone seen or heard from the state DNLR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife in this sad state of affairs?”

Charles Flaherty,

Big Island of Hawaii

“Hi Fellow Smoke Inhalers” – A Letter From a Smoked Out Kona Resident

Aerial view of the Kealakekua Ranch fire

The County of Hawaii is not putting out the South Kona fires. As of 8am this morning they didn’t even have any fire fighters on the scene. Please call your officials and ask, plead, or demand as your mood dictates that these fires not only be contained but also be put out. This experiment in our health needs to come to an end.

The county is pleading that there is a lack of resources so if you have time for more than one phone call, include the state in your efforts to get some attention for South Kona.

I talked to Civil Defense and to the Mayor’s office this morning, and their phone numbers are 935-0031 and 961-8211, respectively. Let us see if we can’t make as much noise as the fireworks did on New Year’s Eve.

Aloha, Emily Burt

Update on the Kona Brush Fires From the County

Media Release:

County of Hawai ‘i firefighters continue to battle three brush fires burning in remote areas of mauka Kona.

The three brush fires currently burning in difficult-to-access terrain near the 4000-foot level are not threatening lives or property. No injuries or property losses have been reported.

The fires are located at Yee Hop Ranch, Hōkūkano Ranch and Kealakekua Ranch. Each of the fires has been contained and firefighters are continuing to apply water around the perimeters of the fires.

The Yee Hop and Hōkūkano ranch fires are expected to be extinguished by tomorrow. The Kealakekua ranch fire could continue to burn for several days. Fire breaks have been bulldozed around each fire and County firefighters are at each location with heavy equipment, continuing to monitor each fire’s progress.

The altitude of the fires prevents County helicopters from making water drops. The Hōkūkano fire also is burning below a thick canopy of trees that would prevent enough water from reaching the fire to extinguish it.

“We’re not abandoning these fires,” said Mayor Billy Kenoi . “After a thorough assessment and collective analysis, we are employing the most prudent and strategic measures to extinguish these fires with the most practical means possible.” Mayor Kenoi will be assessing the fires’ progress personally from a County helicopter on Wednesday morning.

The Yee Hop and Kealakekua ranch fires are believed to have been ignited by lightning. The cause of the Hōkūkano fire is still under investigation.

“We will continue to have resources on scene and deploy what strategies we feel are prudent and most effective to mitigate the fires and minimize any threat to the community,” said County Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira.

Smoke from the fires has caused some discomfort for Kona area residents with respiratory problems. The state Department of Health is monitoring the air quality conditions and had detected some sporadic, elevated levels of particulates in the air at monitoring sites in Kona attributed to both the VOG and recent fires.

Residents are cautioned to use fireworks this weekend with extreme care and consideration for others who may be affected by the additional smoke. Fireworks users should also be aware of the extremely dry conditions caused by drought and be very careful.

Chief Oliveira warned that this is just the beginning of what is expected to be a very difficult fire season.