Let’s be safe and sane for the holiday

What a difference a year makes.

Last year on Dec. 31 the island of Kaua’i was under a deluge of rain that offered flooding to many New Year’s Eve celebrations. This New Year’s Eve, celebrations will be punctuated by pleasant weather within a record dry period.

Kaua’i Fire Department Chief Robert Westerman said the last three to four months have been particularly dry.

Only 68 percent of the average rainfall for the month of December has fallen. Every one of the seven fire stations on the island has responded to brush fire calls since the fire season began months ago.

Just last week firefighters responded to six brush-fires bringing the total to 15 for the month of December. The seriousness of the situation was evident in the death, two days after a Christmas Day helicopter crash, of pilot Jonathon D’Attilio, who was helping battle a blaze in the Kapaia Valley. That blaze led to evacuations of elderly residents of the Sun Village apartments behind Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

If anyone doubts it is dry, just this week there were four days where burning was not allowed. The no-burn policy was extended through today, New Year’s Eve. The fire department says that does not affect the legal use of fireworks and firecrackers. But it does require more vigilance and still requires permits.

On days this week when burning was not permitted, the fire chief heard several reports of smoke that proved to be residents burning rubbish piles unaware that the county was under a no-burn policy.

Quick reporting by the community would have helped get those fires under control had they proved to be brushfires though. Resident calls are one of the reasons responding crews are able to knock down blazes so quickly, said Westerman.

So keep your eyes and noses open.

And a little common sense may go a long way when the firecrackers and fireworks start to ring in the new year.

Not only can the incendiary devices start a fire they can burn human skin severely. Keep the kids away from the firecrackers particularly, and keep all fireworks away from dry, brushy areas. Have a hose or bucket of water on hand. About 45 percent of persons injured from fireworks are children ages 14 years and younger. Children ages 5 to 9 years have the highest injury rate for fireworks-related injuries.

That’s not to say don’t have fun, just be careful.

Don’t let children light fireworks or firecrackers unsupervised by an adult. Last year, hospital officials said over the New Year’s holiday about five burn injuries were reported.

The fire chief said no fires occurred last year mainly due to the heavy downpours. The potential for fires this year is high. Go to the Po’ipu fireworks display set to go off at 10 p.m. But for the sake of all that is safe and sane don’t drive drunk. And if you do drink, designate a driver, or call Roger Ridgley Jr. of A Tow in Paradise.

We do live in a very pleasant place and with a little common sense and heeding certain restrictions we can all wake up New Year’s Day with our homes and bodies intact, ready to charge into the new year and enjoy our island for another year.

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