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Remote weather stations help monitor fire conditions

LAHAINA, Hawai‘i — In an effort to better predict fire behavior and monitor fire-stoking fuels, a state agency is employing remote automatic weather stations on the westside of the island.

The weather stations were recently installed in Lahaina in areas with invasive grasses that can be vulnerable to wildfires. The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) will collect the data from two stations in Lahaina and one above Ma‘alaea.

The data being collected includes precipitation, wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, fuel moisture and solar radiation for rangers and firefighters.

“There are currently three portables set up around Lahaina for more accurate local weather. Not only do the fire departments look at the data, but the data is used by weather researchers for forecasting and modeling,” said DOFAW Fire Protection Forester Mike Walker.

“We monitor the temperature and humidity to determine fire risk for the area. There are stations elsewhere that have cameras that enable early fire detection, hopefully we will be adding some cameras to our stations soon.”

The data being collected by the weather stations will also be helpful for wildland fire management and rating fire danger. The data is collected hourly and transmitted to a satellite, which then sends the data to a computer at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

There are approximately 2,800 remote automatic weather stations units located throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are 22 stations in Hawai‘i. Those stations are managed by the DOFAW.

Each unit costs $25,000 to set up and another $1,000 each year per station to manage.

“They are a great tool to determine fire risk, and we have two portable stations that can be deployed to monitor local fire conditions,” Walker said. “One portable was deployed during the Leilani volcanic eruption on Hawai‘i Island to monitor weather at a geothermal plant. The lava flow cut off access and we couldn’t get back to it for almost a year.”


Wyatt Haupt Jr., editor, can be reached at 808-245-0457 or
Source: The Garden Island

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