SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii -- Army officials are taking action against wildfires by conducting an annual prescribed burn of the Schofield Barracks training range complex, beginning Monday, May 11.
U.S. Army Hawaii personnel have spent the last six months preparing for the burn by removing brush around existing range firebreaks and improving roads throughout the range complex to provide better access for firefighters and emergency personnel.
The Army's plan for the prescribed burn lays out a deliberate and phased strategy for conducting operations.
"We're planning to burn approximately 1,200 acres, but we're not going to burn it all at once. We plan to conduct the burn systematically, by small areas, over the course of one week," said Chief Scotty Freeman, chief, Fire Division, Directorate of Emergency Services, USAG-HI.
Safety is the garrison's No. 1 priority, and the prescribed burn will improve safety by removing highly flammable guinea grass and other vegetation. If left unchecked, these grasses become large fuel sources for wildfires that can be difficult to contain and threaten area resources.
The team will conduct final checks, May 10, to ensure all personnel, equipment and safeguards are in place and ready. The actual burn will begin May 11, provided weather conditions, such as wind, temperature and fuel moisture are within the regulatory parameters.
Fire officials plan to complete the burn effort in approximately one week, pending any unforeseen issues or weather.
"If the conditions are not optimal, we won't burn," said Col. Duane Miller, director, DES, explaining that the garrison must follow Army, state and federal requirements when conducting a prescribed burn.
All burn operations will take place during daylight hours, and firefighters with DES' Fire Division will remain on site each night to monitor the area.
Coordination is critical for an event like this, according to Freeman.
Multiple personnel from USAG-HI, the Federal Fire Department, the 8th Theater Sustainment Command, the 25th Infantry Division, and U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific are supporting the burn effort, to include firefighters, aviators, engineers, natural and cultural resources specialists, explosive ordnance disposal personnel, and law enforcement personnel.
The Army has also coordinated with the Hawaii State Department of Health's Clean Air Branch and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who have both reviewed and approved the prescribed burn plan.
Freeman estimates that effective prescribed burns can reduce wildfire outbreaks by as much as 75 percent, making them an important tool to wildfire prevention.