It’s only May and wildfires have burned more than twice as much land in Hawaii as they did in all of 2015.

More than 60 percent of the state is experiencing moderate drought conditions, and parts of the Big Island are facing extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

The drier-than-normal conditions, largely attributed to El Niño weather conditions, have spurred the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to lead a public awareness campaign with roughly three dozen government agencies and nonprofits.

The state DLNR is leading a public awareness campaign about the threats of wildfires and drought.
The state DLNR is leading a public awareness campaign about the threats of wildfires and drought. Courtesy: Hawaii DLNR

“We hope this campaign, which has both a public and a media component, will educate and inform everyone living in and visiting Hawaii about the year-around threat of wildfires,” DLNR Director Suzanne Case said in a release.

“While fires here in Hawaii burn smaller acreages than in much larger western states, the percentage of forest land we lose each year to wildfire, based on Hawaii’s actual land mass, is equal to states like California,” she said.

Fires have already scorched 10,865 acres this year, according to the DLNR. A recent one in Nanakuli destroyed or damaged thousands of acres, including some native forest.

“During this fire, flames crept precariously close to homes,” Honolulu Fire Chief Manuel Neves said in the release. “The work of county and state fire fighters prevented property loss, and the precautions taken by many homeowners to create defensible space between their houses and surrounding areas prevented serious property loss.”

Derek Wroe, a forecaster with NOAA’s National Weather Service office in Honolulu, said the prolonged drought across large regions of the Hawaiian Islands and long-range predictions show no apparent relief soon.

The state is steering the public to the nonprofit Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization’s website, which is full of resources such as how to stay safe and precautionary steps that can be taken.

Below is DLNR footage of the Nanakuli wildfire.

Nanakuli Wild Fire-Media Clips from Hawaii DLNR on Vimeo.

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