HONOLULU (KHON2) — Illegal fireworks are already going off just about anywhere you look on Oahu.
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Honolulu Fire Department said aerials were to blame for a brush fire in Kapolei over the weekend.
A man who works near the area where the fire started said his co-workers heard the fireworks going off late Saturday night.
“We noticed behind the building someone was lighting fireworks and within a minute after the fireworks I noticed a smell, and I knew it wasn’t fireworks, it doesn’t smell like fireworks anymore, it smells like fire,” explained Ryan Samonte.
He said it only took a few minutes until the fire was glowing over the neighboring building.
“Me and my friends went around the corner and the security guard that monitors the place was rushing over there and he said to call 911,” he continued. “So one of the boys called 911 and we saw the fireworks on the side on fire and that’s what obviously caught the field on fire.”
The Honolulu Fire Department responded with 45 personnel and 15 engines. Fire crews said two acres of a vacant lot owned by Department of Hawaiian Homelands burned.
The fire investigator and drone team determined the cause of the fire was aerial fireworks.
This month alone, Honolulu Police have receive 60 fireworks-related calls. HPD said there are currently no enhanced penalties for fireworks that ignite brushfires, but lawmakers say that could change.
“I love fireworks as much as the next person, but when we’re living in conditions in a state where one firework could set off another Lahaina or Kula wildfire and devastate a community, I don’t think an aerial is worth the lives that could be impacted,” explained Rep. Darius Kila who is the co-chair of the state’s new wildfire prevention working group.
Rep. Kila said doubling fines for people who start fires during windy conditions and red flag days will likely be proposed this upcoming legislative session; but he said there needs to be enforcement too.
The state put together the Illegal Fireworks Task Force this year led by the Department of Law Enforcement. It includes law enforcement agencies from the federal, state, and the county levels, and the director told KHON2 back on November 1, it has already seen a difference since the task force started four months ago.
At that time, 2,000 pounds of illegal fireworks had been seized. In an update on Nov. 20, the Dept. of Law Enforcement said 3,000 pounds had been seized.
Senator Donovan Dela Cruz proposed the firework task force and said he’s happy with the results so far.
“The Department of Law Enforcement, they have the illegal fireworks located in an undisclosed storage area and they’ll be coming to the legislature for additional monies for the development for additional storage units until the fireworks can be discarded properly,” explained Sen. Dela Cruz, who said it could likely expand to neighbor islands.
“It’s definitely making an impact, they have the evidence of the collection,” he added.