HONOLULU (KHON2) — Dry brush and unmanaged vegetation can be the worst enemy for firefighting.
The state fire code is meant to be a prevention tool and each county has the authority to adjust it.
The Honolulu Fire Department checks properties for firebreaks 30 feet from buildings and making sure grass near structures is no taller than 18 inches.
The city has issued 89 violations this year for property growth.
Kauai County issued 17 similar violations, with three under investigation. Not complying comes with warnings and eventually penalties.
“From that point on, we get our county vendors to clear land, and corp counsel works on the fees collecting the mitigation fees with the violation fees,” said Maui Fire Department Battalion Chief Ryan Otsubo.
The Maui County Council is taking a deeper look at the fire department’s ability to enforce.
“Fallow ag lands aren’t specifically called out, it’s all buildings, premises and public thorough fares it doesn’t call out ag lands,” said Maui County Councilmember Tamara Patlin.
“One area that could be looked at is possibly increasing the fine for violations or other types of penalties,” said Alice Lee, Maui County Council Chair.
Experts said as fire risks grow like dry brush there needs to be more funding put into fire prevention.
“Some kind of program that provides an incentive for large landowners to maintain large fuels on their land,” said Division of Fire and Wildlife Fire Protection Forester Michael Walker. “Either giving people tax credits for ag land in active ag production that way fuel are maintained.”
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Discussions over vegetation management will continue in a Maui County Council meeting on Thursday.