The Maui News: “Wildland ‘live-fire’ drills to start Tuesday”

Wildland ‘live-fire’ drills to start Tuesday

The Maui Fire Department will conduct a series of wildland “live-fire” training exercises in north Kihei from Tuesday through Thursday and again April 24 and 25, the department announced Sunday.

Live-fire training will take place on 48 acres of former sugar cane fields on Alexander & Baldwin property, about a quarter-mile to 1 mile northeast of Hale Piilani Park and homes on the east end of Kaiolohia Street in Kihei, said Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto.

In addition to providing firefighters with valuable training, the fallow sugar cane slated for burning will serve as a safety buffer from any future wildfires that might erupt upwind from the north Kihei neighborhood.

With the shutdown of Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. in December, the heavy equipment and personnel that previously assisted the Fire Department with cane field fires no longer exist. The once-lush cane fields have grown fallow and, in some cases, have become vastly overgrown after the recent winter rains. By selectively burning out specific areas, the department is effectively assisting A&B with creating a safety buffer next to homes and mitigating some of the dangers to residents, Taomoto said.

During the training sessions, Kihei residents can expect to see and smell smoke, and possibly see flames. Burning hours will be from about 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Individuals with respiratory issues should keep their windows closed, use air conditioning and stay indoors during these hours.

The Fire Department and the Maui Incident Management Team have carefully planned out these burn exercises to minimize the risk of fire spreading beyond the intended burn area, Taomoto said. Fire crews and additional equipment will be standing by to help control any fires that threaten to jump containment lines.

For any questions about the exercises, contact the department’s Fire Services Office at 270-5542 during normal business hours.