Forest closings cut fire danger on Oahu
Widespread blazes in the Golden State hold a cautionary message for the islands.
Wildfires sprawling across Southern California dwarf a blaze that scorched 1,000 acres in Makaha through this week. Nonetheless, with dry conditions prevailing, the state's decision to close all forest reserves in the Waianae mountains is a prudent move. Because the region encompasses habitats and natural area reserves critical to threatened and endangered plants and animals, a fire could be devastating.
Moreover, though dozens of people had to leave their Leeward Oahu homes for just a few hours, the anxiety over possible loss of property -- and life -- has been vividly displayed as evacuees from San Diego to Ventura counties fled their communities.
With so many friends and relatives living in California, island residents were greatly concerned as hundreds of thousands of acres in the Golden State were charred by flames. Several deaths and destruction of 1,600 houses and hundreds of commercial structures along with roads, bridges and vehicles had been attributed to the fires as strong winds and drought conditions fueled fires, some of them started by arsonists.
Though Hawaii has been spared such widespread blazes, each wildfire has potential for causing major damage. Residents should heed officials' reminders to be careful since prolonged drought through much of the state has primed its lands for fire.
One in August that burned 7,000 acres across Waialua and Oahu's North Shore, did not damage residences but seared farms, ranches, forests and vacant, brush-filled lands.
The recent Makaha fire added to the 25,500 acres scorched this year just on Oahu and Hawaii island alone while fires on Maui have closed its shoreline highway repeatedly in the past months, and Molokai and Kauai have lost scores of acres to wildfires.
Makaha residents, like those in Waikoloa and Waimea on the Big Island in summer, had close encounters, with fires creeping within a half-mile of a gated community and as near as several hundred yards of a high-rise building.
Closing the forest areas reduces the chances that others will have the same experiences.
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