Big Isle’s dry spell raises fire risk
KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii » The lack of rain on the Big Island over the last few months has raised concerns about wildfires or a drought.
Fires could break out on the island because of the hot weather and dry underbrush, said Kailua-Kona Fire Capt. Grant Kojima.
There is a lot of fuel in the area after heavy spring rain sprouted lush weeds, grass and brush, he said. Those plants are now tall and dry, and they would easily catch fire.
"We're definitely on a dry streak," said Ray Tanabe, a forecaster for the National Weather Service. "The long-term outlook for the next three months suggests it may stay this way."
Firefighters already had to battle a 5-acre brush fire Wednesday near the South Kohala district boundary. Heavy rain across the islands lasted more than 40 days in February and March, but the state has been mostly dry ever since. On the Big Island, the summer tradewind showers are nowhere to be seen.
Less than 4 inches of rain have fallen on Hilo so far in July, well under the 7-inch average for this time of the month. Other locations, from Waiaha to Kealakekua to Puuanahulu, reported little or no rain during the summer months.
"It should be raining cats and dogs," said Kona Coffee Council President Roger Dilts. "Thankfully, several coffee farmers and I have irrigation. But we're still looking toward the sky for a chance to see a cloud or two."
Dilts has recorded between 1 and 2 inches of rain at his farm near Kealakekua Bay, far less than the 6 or 7 inches he normally receives by this time of year.
Rainfall has been absent for five or six weeks, but the dry weather has not affected domestic water supplies or caused a drought yet, said Water Supply Deputy Manager Quirino Antonio. He said there is still plenty of water in the streams, wells and reserves.
Residents should take precautions to prevent fires, such as clearing all flammable vegetation and creating a 50-foot space around houses to provide a safety zone for firefighters battling flames, Kojima said..