HONOLULU (KHON2) — As we near the summer months, officials are warning on Wednesday, June 7 that the dry season leads to an increase in brush fires here in the islands. In fact, forecasters said that this could extend into next year.

Most of our state has emerged from drought conditions due to the strong rains we experienced during the wet season.

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Derek Wroe, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service, stated, “Things are green right now, which leads to an abundance of vegetation. However, as we head into the summer or the typical dry season, we are projecting drier-than-normal conditions. As a result, the abundant vegetation that you see out there now will dry out, providing available fuel for wildfires.”

While you might enjoy hearing that Justin Cruz forecasts no end to the trade winds, it only takes a short period of dry weather for the lush vegetation to become fire fuel, especially in leeward areas.

“You only need a couple of weeks of dry weather and some wind, especially when the weather gets hotter. The vegetation will dry out quickly and become highly flammable.” Wroe explained.

Although these fires typically occur in leeward areas, it does not mean they are limited to rural regions. Within the last few years, there have been a couple of brush fires on Waahila Ridge at the University of Hawaii.

Fire officials report that 95% of fires in Hawaii are caused by humans, with 75% being accidental. Therefore, there are preventive measures individuals can take.

Mike Walker, the state protection forester for the DLNR, advises, “Maintain vegetation around your homes. Be mindful of parking over dry grasses when pulling over or idling, and exercise extra caution when welding or performing other hot work this summer.”

Implementing these practices could alleviate the strain on county resources during brush fires.

Darwin Okinaka, assistant chief of the Hawaii County Fire Department, stated, “The fire department cannot respond to every need that arises. Our primary focus is protecting lives and property.”

This drier-than-average season may persist longer than usual due to the development of El Niño in the Pacific.

“El Niño will contribute to dryer than normal conditions, extending into the fall months, which typically mark the beginning of our wet season. It should remain drier than normal during those months, thereby prolonging the fire danger,” Wroe said.

The Honolulu Fire Department provides the following tips to protect your property:

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  • Reduce fuels that could cause ignition to protect your home. Regularly maintain your yard, clean out gutters, and dispose of clutter. Xeriscaping yards are the easiest to maintain and are safest against wildland fires.
  • Exercise extreme caution when using flame-producing devices such as matches, lighters, grills, and firecrackers. Even the smallest spark or flame can ignite dry wildland vegetation. Keep flame-producing devices away from young children and always follow the manufacturer’s directions.
  • If you spot smoke, don’t hesitate; call 911. Your quick response can save homes and, more importantly, lives. The sooner we can reach a fire, the better chance we have of preventing its spread.