The mission of the DOFAW Fire Management Program is to provide protection to forest reserves, natural area reserves, wildlife and plant sanctuaries and public hunting areas. DOFAW will cooperate with established fire control agencies for the protection of other wildlands not within department protection areas to the extent needed to provide for public safety. DOFAW will hold environmental damage below the level at which it would interfere with the high level, sustained yield of services and commodities from these lands.
By virtue of its core
mission, DOFAW plays a pivotal role in protecting the
state's watersheds and unique forest resources, i.e. forest
products, and threatened and endangered species. Because
wildfire is a threat to Hawai'i's economy, society, and
natural resources, all levels of government have established
fire services to guard against the ravages of uncontrolled
conflagration. DOFAW has primary responsibility for the
following management units:
Combined with cooperative zones, DOFAW is involved with each of the four counties in the protection of 3,360,000 acres statewide, which approximately 81% of the state's land area. The remainder is managed by various military fire departments and Department of Interior (National Park Service and the Fish & Wildilfe Service) and The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii.
In pursuit of this responsibility, DOFAW has adopted a Fire Management Handbook which specifies its standards for prevention, presuppression, and suppression. The document provides a structured approach in providing for public/firefighter safety and minimizing damage to Hawaii's environment. Funding for the fire management program is provided by the State's general fund and federal cost share programs through the U.S. Forest Service. These programs include the Rural Community Fire Protection (RCFP) and Rural Fire Protection and Control (RFPC) programs. Additionally, the Division is a key agency within the State who can trigger provisions of the Stafford Act (Fire Suppression Assistance) which provides for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding assistance in situations where forest and grass fires on public or private lands threaten a major disaster to communities and economies.
Historically, the Division relied on a system of district
fire wardens to help suppress fires in rural settings.
Because of their location and distribution throughout the
islands, many plantations and ranchers served an effective
network of partners who could respond with their manpower
and equipment to extinguish wildland fires in a timely
fashion. Decline in these industries saw the demise of this
special partnership within the past decade. In the meantime,
local fire departments improved their capabilities by
increasing the number of stations and firemen principally in
response to the growth of the islands' population and the
resultant urban sprawl. The improved fire protection served
to provide extended coverage to rural and wildland areas as
well. However, there was a need to clarify these
relationships because DOFAW, which has no full-time
firefighters like the dedicated fire services, was often
requested to respond to fire situations outside its legal
jurisdiction. The consequence was the rapid depletion of its
own fire suppression funding and subsequent inability to
address fire threats on land under its own jurisdiction. To
still meet its legal fire protection mandate for state-owned
lands and honor its partnership with other fire services,
DOFAW negotiated with its local fire departments and
established a cooperative mechanism for prevention,
presuppression and suppression measures by way of the
current Memorandum of Agreements. Fire
Maps were also drawn
to delineate agency fire responsibilities.