$45,000 is for search and rescue, tooBy LESTER CHANG
TGI Staff Writer
LIHU’E — The Kaua’i Fire Department has budgeted
$45,000 this year to cover the cost of search and rescue missions and
firefighting operations using helicopters.
Whether the funds are sufficient
won’t be known until the end of the fiscal year because “we don’t know how the
year will play out in terms of rescues and fires,” fire chief David Sproat
Kaua’i County contracts the services of Air-1 Inter-Island
Helicopters, a Hanapepe company, on a case-by-case basis, according to county
finance director Wallace Rezentes Jr.
Helicopters pick up water from
reservoirs or from the ocean and dump it on brush fires, augmenting the efforts
of firefighters on the ground.
Three helicopters – two from Air-1 and a
helicopter from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility – played key roles in
fighting a brush fire last Sunday that blackened 100 acres near the Kaumuaali’i
Highway about one mile west of Halfway Bridge.
Had the helicopters not been
in operation, the fire could have forced the closure of the highway or caused
the disruption of telephone and electricity service by burning down utility
poles on the highway, officials said.
To reduce the use of civilian and
military helicopters to fight brush fires during the drought season, owners of
large, vacant lots should cut down high grass, Sproat said.
owners should also maintain road access to their lots and within the lots where
fires may erupt, Sproat said.
“Landowners need to be on top of the
management of these lands,” Sproat said.
To help combat future brush fires,
the fire department will use a $55,000 grant from the state Department of Land
and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife to buy a
four-wheel-drive brush vehicle equipped with a mini pumper, a water tank and
Three brush fires occurred in Lihu’e, Puhi and Kipu over
the past week.
In the latest one, firefighters on Thursday put out residual
“hot spots” from a Tuesday fire that charred seven acres of grass in a valley
south of Kaumuali’i Highway and Puhi Bypass Road, said acting battalion chief
Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681
(ext. 225) and firstname.lastname@example.org