Tuesday, June 22, 1999

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
In September 1998, a large brush fire threatened
homes in Aikahi Park.

Brush fire threat
not to be taken lightly

By Jaymes K. Song


Brush-fire season is here, and fire officials are recommending that residents take precautions.

All rural areas -- such as Nanakuli, Makakilo, Waianae, Hawaii Kai, Mokuleia and Waialua -- are prone to brush fires, said Fire Capt. Richard Soo.

The vast majority of brush fires are started by people and not natural acts such as lighting.

"The key is, children are out of school," Soo warned.

Soo said adults, who discard cigarettes out of their car windows, also have caused several fires.

The Honolulu Fire Department does not keep track of how many acres are burned every year.

"It's such a burden on manpower," Soo said. "It takes so many companies to fight brush fires and they can't respond to nearby medical calls or structure fires."

All disasters can strike quickly without warning, fire officials said. You can cope with disaster by preparing in advance and working together.

Question: What can I do outside my home to better protect me from and prepare me for wildfires?

Answer: Take these steps:

Bullet Rake leaves, limbs and twigs.
Bullet Remove rubbish and leaves from under structures.
Bullet Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.
Bullet Remove vines from the walls.
Bullet Mow grass regularly.
Bullet Clear an area around propane tanks and the barbeque.
Bullet Regularly dispose of newspapers and garbage.
Bullet Store gasoline, oily rags and other flammable materials in approved safety cans, away from the base of the building.
Bullet Make sure emergency vehicles can get to your home and clearly mark all driveway entrances and addresses.
Bullet Clean roofs and gutters.

Q: What can I do in my home?

A: Install a smoke detector in every bedroom, test monthly and change batteries once a year.

Also, post emergency telephone numbers by every phone.

Q: What can I teach family and friends?

A: Teach how to use a fire extinguisher and where it is kept. Also:

Bullet Teach children about fire safety and keep matches and lighters out of their reach.
Bullet Plan several escape routes away from the home -- by car and foot.
Bullet Talk to your neighbors, especially about helping those who have special needs such as elderly and physically challenged.
Bullet Show responsible family members how and when to shut off the water, gas and electricity.
Bullet Learn first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Q: What items are good to have handy?

A: Suggested items include:

Bullet A ladder tall enough to reach the roof.
Bullet Tools to battle fires such as a rake, ax, bucket and shovel.
Bullet A garden hose long enough to reach all areas of the home and other structures on the property.

Q: What should I do if a wildfire is threatening my neighborhood?

A: In the event of a wildfire:

Bullet Listen to the radio for reports and evacuation information.
Bullet If advised to evacuate, do so immediately.
Bullet Follow Oahu Civil Defense instructions.
Bullet Close drapes, vents, doors, blinds and window coverings.
Bullet Remove lightweight curtains.
Bullet Shut off gas at the meter and the pilot light.
Bullet Move furniture to the center of the home, away from windows and sliding glass doors.
Bullet Turn on a light in each room to increase the visibility in heavy smoke.
Bullet Seal attic and ground vents with plywood or commercial seals.
Bullet Turn off propane tanks.
Bullet Move combustible patio furniture inside.
Bullet Connect the garden hose.

For more information, call the Fire Department at 831-7765.

E-mail to City Desk

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