Firefighters receive specialized training to combat climate-induced fires

February 26, 2024

Firefighters in Hawaii undergo ignition training

Experts from the U.S. Forest Service recently visited Hawaii to conduct “ignition training” for 24 firefighters from federal, state, and county levels.

This training session was held on former agricultural lands in south Kauai, now overrun with invasive grass species.

The hands-on training provided participants with essential skills for initiating backburns and planned burns, techniques critical for managing and mitigating fire outbreaks.

Mike Walker, a state protection forester with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) Division of Forestry and Wildlife, emphasized the importance of incorporating planned fires into their management strategies.

Despite his lack of experience with planned fires, Walker expressed optimism about their future use: “We want our firefighting force to know what to do and know what not to do.

“We can either burn the grass when we want it to burn, or we can wait until it gets ignited by somebody else and then have to go put it out. So, it’s something that’s really useful.”

The significance of controlled burns in fire management

The training aimed at equipping Hawaii’s wildland firefighters with the knowledge and skills to tackle the increasing frequency and intensity of fires due to climate change.

With invasive grasses fueling fires across 25% of Hawaii’s lands, including the devastating Lahaina wildfire, the need for effective fire management strategies has never been more critical.

Controlled burns, a practice used historically on Hawaii’s former sugar and pineapple plantations and in other regions like the West Coast and military bases, serve to reduce the volume of combustible materials and mitigate the risk of uncontrolled fires.

Challenges and achievements in ignition training

Participants of the ignition training engaged in classroom learning before applying their knowledge in the field, where they practiced setting up and igniting drip torches amidst challenging conditions such as residual moisture from overnight rain and high humidity.

Despite these obstacles, the training successfully imparted valuable practical knowledge on conducting backburns and planned burns.

To legally conduct these prescribed burns, fire agencies must obtain a permit from the Department of Health Clean Air Branch, which requires a comprehensive burn plan detailing the area, fuel types, and expected weather conditions.

FSJA Comment

The recent ignition training conducted by the U.S. Forest Service in Hawaii marks a proactive step towards enhancing the capabilities of firefighters in the face of climate change-induced fire hazards.

By focusing on practical skills for conducting controlled burns, this initiative not only aims to mitigate the immediate threat of wildfires but also contributes to a broader strategy of land management and environmental conservation.

As climate change continues to influence the frequency and ferocity of wildfires, such training programs are indispensable in preparing firefighting forces to respond effectively and safely.

The collaborative effort between federal, state, and county agencies underscores the importance of a unified approach in addressing the complex challenges posed by wildfires, highlighting the need for ongoing education and adaptation in firefighting practices.

Read Next

Subscribe Now