Presented on March 20, 2024, by

Dr. Francis Fujioka
Research Meteorologist, Retired
USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station


The National Weather Service fire weather forecast for West Maui on August 8, 2023 predicted dry and windy conditions well before they materialized and drove the rapidly advancing fire that devastated Lahaina. In retrospect, one might argue that the weather information by itself conveys only partially the wildfire threat assessment that is needed for fire protection planning. This seminar describes a fire spread model developed for federal wildland fire management more than 50 years ago, and currently used nationwide for fire behavior and fire danger prediction. It will cover pc-based simulations of the model for the Lahaina fire, using weather data from 1) the NWS predictions for that day, and 2) gridded weather routinely produced by Dr. Yi-Leng Chen of the Atmospheric Sciences Department. The fire model has been used in research and development projects in Hawai’i before the work was terminated for lack of funding in 2012. Prospects for an operational version of a fire threat assessment system for Hawai’i will be discussed.