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$2M earmarked to help combat wildfires on the Big Island

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congressman Kaiali‘i Kahele (HI-02) and Congressman Ed Case (HI-01) announced Thursday that the Hawai‘i State Department of Land and Natural Resources will receive $2,485,308 in federal funding to support the Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA) on the island of Hawai‘i to improve the PTA’s response to wildfires.

“Wildfires pose a significant threat to the safety of lives and property, particularly on Hawai‘i Island where tens of thousands of acres were destroyed last year during the Mana Road wildfire,” Kahele said. “These important funds from the Department of Defense (DOD) will support the PTA Defense Community Infrastructure Pilot Program and improve wildfire response efforts to help keep our communities safe.”

“Climate change is all too real for those who had to evacuate last year as the Mana Road wildfire, the largest in the history of the Big Island which scorched some 42,000 acres, threatened hundreds of homes in Waikaloa Village, Pu‘u Kapu Hawaiian Homestead and Waiki‘i area,” Case said. “We need to improve the capability to combat wildfires, which are predicted to be more frequent and larger due to drought conditions brought on by climate change.

“The $2 million in federal funding further demonstrates the DOD’s continuing effort to build key partnerships and resiliency in the communities where they are stationed.”

Kahele said the funds will construct a new firefighting and conservation warehouse to improve wildfire response and enable the maintenance and repair of firefighting vehicles.

The U.S. Army Garrison’s PTA is a member of the Big Island Wildfire Group and agrees to team up with local, state and other federal firefighting units, and when called upon can dispatch dozens of pieces of apparatus, aircraft and firefighters to take on wildfires.

Case said the funding comes from programs administered by the DOD to support state and local governments to respond to base closures, base restructuring or realignment, growth issues affecting land and air use for military bases and nearby communities and other issues that can impact the economy of a region.

Case, a member of the U.S. House Committee on Appropriations, said he is calling on Congress to provide $298 million in grants next year for the Defense Community Investment Program, another DOD initiative that supports public schools on military bases.

“This is another Defense Department program that is critical to ensure that the military is a good partner with local communities and will also help to ensure the quality of life for our troops,” Case said. “For us in Hawai‘i, investing in communities around military bases is the right thing to do for our islands, for military families, and for our national security.”
Source: The Garden Island

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