Hawaii Burns Through Wildfire Budget

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Due to a deepening drought and being hit by a couple of major out-of-season brush fires, Hawaii burned through its budget for fighting wildland fires in February, four months before the end of the fiscal year.

Now, unless funds appear from other sources, the state agency responsible for fire suppression across more than 1.6 million acres might have to raid other forestry and wildlife programs if there's a need to respond to additional fires in Hawaii's wilderness, officials said.

This is the third time in the last six years that the state's $500,000 firefighting budget was depleted before the end of the fiscal year. In 2010 a single large wildfire on the slopes of Mauna Kea wiped out all of the fire suppression money.

Data from a recent Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization study indicate that the average area burned each year in Hawaii has climbed by 400 percent over the past century, and yet state funding for wildfire suppression has not changed in decades. 

In a move to beef up the annual fire suppression budget, Gov. David Ige is asking lawmakers for $800,000 in his proposed state budget for the coming fiscal year.