On October 10, Army training activity caused a brush fire that burned for 18 days and scorched more than 450 acres of the Waiʻanae mountains. The column of thick blackish brown smoke could be seen all the way from Honolulu. In the Kona winds, the smoke blanketed the north shore for nearly a week.
The news reported that the fire was “100% contained” on Monday, 10/28/2013. The army claims that no homes or endangered species were threatened by the fires:
The fire on Army and Dole Food Co. property has burned about 450 acres of brush land but posed no threat to facilities or endangered species, Army spokesman Dennis Drake said.
However it is impossible to know for certain what impacts the fire may have had on the ecosystem or on Native Hawaiian cultural sites until a thorough biological and cultural survey can be conducted. Furthermore, the fire could have long term negative impacts on native ecosystems.
The Waiʻanae mountains is an endangered species hot spot, with some extremely rare species found no where else in the world. The more pernicious impact is the way that fires create space for invasive weeds to aggressively spread and transform the ecosystem in lasting ways. These weeds eventually can overtake native forests that may have been spared from the direct impact of the fire, but may succumb to the altered landscape in the future.
Līhuʻe (the location of the Army Schofield training range) was an important cultural and political center for Oʻahu chiefs. There are hundreds of cultural sites in the impact zone alone. It is unclear what cultural sites may have been affected by the fire.
In addition to respiratory problems caused by particulate matter (smoke particles and ash), contaminants in the training range, including explosives, energetics, lead and depleted uranium can be mobilized by fires. There has been a reported increase in health problems in the surrounding area according to Hawaii News Now:
The brushfire that burned on Schofield Barracks property has been 100% contained. However the fire, which burned 450 acres of land, caused headaches for residents of central Oahu.
Although the fire has never threatened any homes, it has proved to be a big concern for many residents of Wahiawa.
The reason is all the smoke that has drifted into town over the past six days.
“There has been an uptick in the number of patients coming in with respiratory complaints” said Doctor Thomas Forney, the Director of the Emergency Department at Wahiawa General Hospital.
Meanwhile, the AP reports (10.29.2013) that a Navy contractor Cape Environmental Management Inc. will detonate unexploded munitions dredged from the sediment in Ke Awalau o Puʻuloa (Pearl Harbor):
The Naval Facilities Engineering Command said Monday a contractor will destroy the munitions using controlled detonations at a safe location on the Waipio Peninsula.
The article suggests that the ordnance may be “from the 1941 Japanese bombing and the explosion of a landing ship in West Lock in 1944.”
But other ordnance has been discovered in the channel at Puʻuloa that came from U.S. training activities.