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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Fire causes little damage to Kauai wildlife refuge

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Staff Writer

LIHU'E, Kaua'i Firefighters yesterday extinguished the island's 52nd fire in a month.

The fire started near midnight Sunday along Halehaka Road, burned quickly through about 30 acres of abandoned sugar cane and then into a rugged forested section of the Hule'ia National Wildlife Refuge. Ten acres of the refuge's 241 acres were burned. Firefighters declared it extinguished at 4 p.m.

The refuge was established to protect endangered waterbirds; their wetland habitat in the refuge was not directly threatened by the fire.

Fire Chief Robert Westerman said the fire may have been intentionally set or caused by fireworks or a discarded cigarette. He said about half of the island's recent fires have been started by careless acts such as throwing cigarettes out of cars.

The problem of wildlfires is statewide and is made worse by a period of very dry weather.

Denise Laitinen, coordinator of the Firewise Community program, said residents in fire-prone areas should take precautions such as pruning trees so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet off the ground; removing dead leaves and plants from around the home and planting high-moisture-content vegetation.

For more information on the Firewise program, call Laitinen in Hilo at at (808) 281-3497 or by e-mail at dlaitinen@firewise.org.

Reach Jan TenBruggencate at jant@honoluluadvertiser.com.