The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) is reminding the public it is illegal to have ground fires, whether bonfires or for cooking, on public beaches. Coals also must be completely extinguished and disposed of in a receptacle designed for that purpose, not buried in the sand.

On Saturday, December 11, 2010, a 4-year old boy was badly burned on his foot after stepping in some buried charcoal at Nanakuli “Tracks” beach on Oahu. It is believed the coals were left by an individual barbecuing on the beach.

DLNR Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement (DOCARE) has begun an investigation.

“Under state law, it is illegal to have fires on Hawaii’s beaches. In recent years, a young boy was seriously injured by hidden embers from a fire on a beach on Maui. Another child was burned by buried coals on Bellows beach. Injuries on the beach from unauthorized fires are preventable,” said William J. Aila, Jr., DLNR interim chairman. “We ask for the public’s kokua (help) to voluntarily comply with these necessary safety requirements in order to protect our families and especially young ones.”

Here are the requirements and safety tips that are important to remember:

  • Ground and open fires are prohibited on all state beaches and state recreational areas.
  • Open fires can escape and cause major fires in adjacent areas.
  • Cooking fires are only allowed in devices specifically designed to contain the fires.
  • Do not discard hot coals near tree stumps or in undesignated areas – coals burn tree roots and can kill the tree.
  • Buried coals and nails can be even more dangerous since they are difficult to identify, easy to step on and easy to fall onto.
  • Hot coals used for cooking should be fully extinguished by dousing with water, turning them over to ensure they are out. Then dispose of them in a designated container designed for that purpose. Or when they are fully extinguished and cool to the touch, take them home to dispose of safely. Never dump them on the beach and bury them in the sand where they can smolder and retain their heat for a long time.

Open fires and driving on the beach are both violations of Hawaii Administrative Rules Chapter 13-221-3. Any person violating this chapter for which a penalty is not otherwise provided shall be fined not more than $500 per day and shall be liable for administrative costs and damages incurred by the department.

HRS 171-6 (15) which was amended in 2008 allows civil fines of not more than $5000 per first violation; and an additional $1,000 per day if the violation persists.

To report a violation of these rules or an illegal fire, call the DLNR DOCARE Hotline at 643-DLNR or the 911 emergency telephone number.