HONOLULU (KHON2) — Emergency preparedness is expected to be a major topic in next year’s legislative session, from management of the land to reduce wildfires to taking a closer look at how homes are built, the House of Representatives was tasked with taking a closer look at ways to mitigate the dangers.
Wildfire prevention remains a critical issue, top of mind for many. Honolulu Fire Chief Sheldon Hao said they are taking the lessons from the Maui wildfire disaster to prevent another tragedy.
Hao said, “Taking whatever we can learn in Lahaina on Maui, we have to look within ourselves to ensure that we’re doing everything we can do on our island.”
The House of Representatives Wildfire Prevention Working Group recently released a draft report that reviews the cause of fires in Hawaii, as well as prevention and mitigation.
Representative Nadine Nakamura said the draft report is a launching pad to create future legislation.
“To do a better job at preventing these, creating fire breaks where possible,” Nakamura said. “Doing better fire prevention plans and working with communities, especially in those drought-prone areas on the Leeward sides of every island.”
The draft report found that 99% of wildfires are human-caused and that two-thirds of Hawaii’s communities have only one way in and out according to a 2014 wildfire hazard assessment. The report also mentions how the State has not adopted requirements for fire-resistant materials in construction.
Nakamura said, “I’m sure there will be bills dealing with fire-resistant materials, and changes to the building code.”
The Complete Construction Services owner Gregory Thielen said contractors follow the existing fire code, which includes fire-resistant techniques.
Thielen said, “There are fire resistant standards in constructions, there’s what is called fire blocking in walls to prevent fire from traveling inside of wall cavities.”
He worries that requiring specific materials in construction could price people out.
Thielen said, “Codes have changed over time and rather than one large thing that just makes housing incredibly expensive, it’s 10,000 little things.”
Meanwhile, a series of information briefings by the House of Representatives will help gather community input for proposed legislation.
Governor Josh Green said he will also be submitting a comprehensive legislative package, he said it will include proposals to protect consumers from substantial energy increases and create funding opportunities to harden the grid and address climate change impacts.
“This is not going to just be about Maui,” Green said. “This is going to be about having additional secure lines in all parts of the state enhancements, for example, our alert systems.”
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The next Wildfire Prevention Working Group informational briefing is scheduled for Nov. 17.