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Monday, August 14, 2000

Watching The Army Set Makua Valley On Fire

By Craig T. Kojima, Star-Bulletin
The Army set test fires in Makua Valley this morning to help
determine how to combat blazes that might be accidentally touched
off by soldiers while training. At left, Anela Maunakea, a native
Hawaiian whose family used to live in the area,
watches the proceedings.

Makua test fires
help Army learn

Since 1970, 270 fires have erupted
on the grounds

By Gregg K. Kakesako

A series of test fires was set today at the Makua Military Reservation to help the Army determine the best way to combat training blazes.

No training has been held in the 4,190-acre Waianae Coast training facility since September 1998, when the Army suspended operations while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service evaluated the effects of the bombing and firing on the plants and animals there. Since 1970, Makua has been the scene of 270 accidental fires.

Today's test burns were limited to nearly a dozen rectangular plots of grass.

Ron Bourne, Army range officer, said video and still cameras were used to record the height of the flames and the rate of spread. "By determining how a fire behaves," Bourne said, "this will help us to reduce the risks of fires and what will be needed to fight those fires when they occur."

The Army already has agreed to drastically reduce the type of training and weapons that can be used in the valley. Current policy limits training in the valley to a company of 120 soldiers armed with only rifles and mortars.

The Army hopes to release for public comment next month an environmental assessment on what the resumption of military training will mean to Makua Valley.


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