Local cooking traditions could be altered by council bill

LIHU‘E — A County Council committee is having second thoughts about a bill that would change the way Kauaians cook huli huli chicken.

Members of the Kaua‘i County Council Energy & Public Safety Committee have hedged against approving the proposed updating of some provisions of the county fire code to be in compliance with state fire codes.

At a meeting Thursday, some council members were taken aback by a provision that required a person to notify the fire department before they cooked huli huli chicken or set imu fires for roasting pigs.

They also were concerned about islanders having to notify the fire department and the nearest fire station to them 10 minutes before they light wood-burning stoves for outdoor baths.

These practices are island traditions and are still being practiced today, and to approve the changes in their current form would impinge on Kaua‘i’s rural way of life, some legislators said during the meeting of the council committee at the historic County Building.

The committee members deferred action on the bill to go over the proposed changes in more detail.

Capt. Russell Yee of the Kaua‘i Fire Department said the changes are being proposed for adoption by the council so that the county fire code would be in line with those of the other counties.

The proposed changes were reviewed by fire chiefs from all the counties, he said.

The changes, including penalties for violations, are not so much to penalize people as they are to make them cognizant of what they are doing when they use fire outdoors, Yee said.

The function of the state fire code is to keep people safe from hazards, Yee added.

One major change required people to notify the KFD dispatcher and the nearest fire station 10 minutes before they light fires to cook huli huli chicken or set up imu fires.

Council vice chair James Tokioka said, as far as he knows, many residents who cook huli huli style are responsible and are concerned about safety when using fire outdoors.

That is probably so, Yee indicated, but accidents occur. He said a tent caught on fire as people cooked food huli huli style.

Another concern among council members dealt with a provision that called on people to notify the fire department dispatcher and the nearest county fire station 10 minutes before lighting a fire for residential bathing.

The proposed provision would create inconveniences for those who use outdoor, wood-burning stoves to heat water for baths, said councilman Joe Munechika.

He said it would be burdensome for people to have to call the county every time “to heat water for a bath.”

But having an idea of who has log-burning stoves will help prevent fires, Yee contended.

“We don’t know who has log-burning stoves, and we will if this (fire) code is updated,” Yee said.

Use of outdoor water heaters can lead to tragic consequences, Yee also said. In one case, a good portion of a cabin in Koke‘e burned down because of a malfunctioning outdoor water heater.

Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura said it might be better to have the owners just register that type of water heater with the county.

Having people call the government before they use such equipment would tie up emergency lines that should be used for emergencies, Yukimura said.

Council members also voiced concerns about a proposed change that would call for people to obtain written permission from property owners when outdoor fires are set for recreational, decorative or ceremonial purposes.

People must submit a letter requesting the fire chief’s approval to ignite a fire 14 calendar days before the fire is lit.

Kaua‘i resident Andy Parks, who attended the meeting, said that requirement, if adopted, would be impractical and intrusive for a family holding a nighttime party and spontaneously wanting to light a torch or two to make an event special.

Yukimura suggested the council take a different approach in updating the fire code rules for Kaua‘i. “Why can’t we propose amendments so that they (other counties) can be consistent with us?” Yukimura asked.

Yee noted the fire code conditions can’t be less stringent than those in place statewide.

Yukimura said some of the proposed changes are impractical and theoretical in nature, and are “intrusive to people.”

Councilman Daryl Kaneshiro voiced similar concerns, noting some of the changes are likely to fit the urban lifestyle of O‘ahu, not the rural style of Kaua‘i.

Council chairman Kaipo Asing insisted the fire code include restrictions to regulate the burning of debris on agricultural lands. Such restrictions would protect natural resources, he said.

Staff writer Lester Chang may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net.


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