Wildland fire, prescribed burn nets positive results

| May 27, 2016 | 0 Comments
Photo courtesy of Federal Fire Department  Bryson Kamakura, firefighter, Army Wildland Fire, monitors a piece of land that’s part of a prescribed burn, May 16. The firefighters safely burned invasive Guinea grass before the dryer summer season to prevent larger brush fires and better promote forest health.

Photo courtesy of Federal Fire Department
Bryson Kamakura, firefighter, Army Wildland Fire, monitors a piece of land that’s part of a prescribed burn, May 16. The firefighters safely burned invasive Guinea grass before the dryer summer season to prevent larger brush fires and better promote forest health.

 

Dr. Daniel Brush
Deputy Director, Emergency Services
U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii

SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Each year, the Directorate of Emergency Services meticulously plans and coordinates with numerous internal and external stakeholders for a prescribed burn on the training ranges, here.

There are a number of reasons that we spend six to eight months planning this event, and it revolves around the Army’s continued need to maintain training proficiency and capabilities on Oahu.

On face value, the idea of closing the ranges down for two weeks doesn’t necessarily equate to increased training capabilities, but that is the end state of our efforts.

Over the course of the year, based on the amount of precipitation received on Schofield, there is a significant amount of flammable natural fuel on the range.

Depending on changes in weather and the type of training that occurs on the range, there becomes a potential for fires to break out. When that happens, range operations typically are stopped and/or delayed to ensure that the fire doesn’t spread.

By tacking on an extra week to the standard range maintenance schedule in May, we have an opportunity to conduct a “controlled” burn and minimize that natural fuel source out there.

This year, our team of 11 wildland firefighters set out to burn 1,200 acres on the Schofield Range over a two-week period that began May 15. Based on the aerial recon conducted, we achieved a 98 percent success rate on the identified burn areas.

More importantly, even though the weather did not totally cooperate, we achieved this rate of success in just three days of active burning. That allowed for some additional work to be done on the range and, of equal importance, minimized the length and duration of smoke and ash in the air.

For our neighbors on the Waianae coast, that meant that the graduation ceremonies for Waianae and Nanakuli were smoke free!

 

The importance of the prescribed burn

According to the National Drought Mitigation Center, 70 percent of Hawaii is suffering from dry conditions, with 40 percent of the state being in a moderate-to-severe drought.

The National Interagency Fire Center places Hawaii at an “above normal” risk for significant wildland fire potential. By taking the time to plan and execute this mission, we made a significant impact on the ability for the Army to continue its training requirements.

DES extends its gratitude and appreciate to everyone who worked so hard to prepare for and execute this event, especially our wildland firefighters; the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division; and Mark Neely, who joined us from Fort Riley, Kan., to assist with this year’s operation.

Even though we’ve accomplished what we set out to do on the range, we also want to remind the members of the garrison community to exercise extreme caution this year when out and about on the island of Oahu and throughout the state of Hawaii.

It doesn’t take more than a spark to start a wildfire.

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