Forecasters warn that the islands will begin experiencing drought conditions late this summer, that could extend all the way through next winter. The information was shared as the state kicks off its annual wildfire awareness campaign.
Information on the Wildfire & Drought LOOKOUT! campaign was shared at a news conference hosted by the Hawai‘i County Civil Defense Agency.
Derek Wroe of the National Weather Service cautioned about weather complacency: “While everything is green and lush right now, we are expecting below-average rainfall, as we enter the dry season in Hawai‘i. Our long-range modeling shows that even our normally wet winter (2023-2024) will be abnormally dry.”
This means all that green vegetation now, will not only be more abundant, but will have a longer period to dry out ̶ providing more potential fuel for wildland fires.
Mike Walker, State Protection Forester for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, reminded everyone that wildfire season in Hawai‘i, is now and will continue to be a year-round phenomenon, due to warming climate conditions.
“Much of Hawai‘i’s landscape, particularly in fire-prone areas, is dominated by invasive fountain grass. It is fire adapted and is flammable throughout the year and even more so during drought periods,” Walker said. Dry fountain grass has helped fuel most large wildfires on Hawai‘i island.
The Wildfire & Drought Lookout! is a collaborative effort of virtually every fire prevention and response agency in the state. It is coordinated by the Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization.
This was the first time since the initiative started in 2016 that the kick-off news conference has been held somewhere other than O‘ahu and is focusing on Hawai‘i Island, which has experienced the largest wildfires in recent years.
Both the 40,000-acre Mana Road fire in 2021 and last year’s 17,000-acre Leilani fire were fueled by invasive grasses.