Fire Dancers Cited for Fire in Makena State Park

By Dr. George R. Harker

Update regarding the pretrial hearings of J  B and Zachary Rice on February 14, 2007. Zachary Rice's case was dismissed without prejudice just as Bryan Axtell's. J B didn't give the court a chance to dismiss the mater by claiming the court had no jurisdiction. Apparently this has worked according to J's view when the courts dismissed the motion and told her to pay the fine. J doesn't pay and they have not come after her yet. I wonder if she knows about the three strike clause? One would think it would be better to have the case dismissed with prejudice rather than rack up points for a three strike's scenario.

Update regarding Thursday January 25, 2007 arraignment of fire dancers J B and Zachary Rice on same charge as Bryan Axtell. Both chose to disregard Dr. Leisure's advice to cite the dismissal of Bryan Axtell. Both plead not guilty and a pretrial hearing is set for February 14, 2007. I guess you can lead a fire dancer to water but you can not make them put out their torches. Oh well Dr. Leisure tried. It will be interesting to see if the charges are dropped or if the DLNR presses the case. Apparently DOCARE still believes you cannot have any fire in the state park.

One of the twenty people cited for being in the park fifteen minutes after closing on Sunday January 21 had his case dropped when no charges were filed by the DLNR. It seems there is no particular significance to this. The DLNR just is not able to get their paperwork moved around to accommodate a tourist that had to leave town to go home. John was one of the dozen or so tourist who had no idea what was going on between the fire dancers and the DLNR.

Consider a contribution to Doctor Leisure if you want to help defray the cost of this site and the efforts to assist the fire dancers and save Makena State Park.

Update of Monday January 22, 2007 regarding fire dance activity of Sunday January 21, 2007.  Fire dancers missed the significance of Bryan Axtell's case dismissal with prejudice. Obviously the Department of Land and Natural Resources was trying to tell the fire dancers there was a problem with the activity. Rather than heed that warning the dancers continued as if nothing had happened.

Various individuals familiar with fire dancing suggested that some effort should be made to ensure safety of all involved. Such things as spotters and people with a wet towel to throw over a burning person. The use of non spill fuel containers as but a few of many suggestions.

It was also suggested that young children not be involved in the activity thinking that the Department of Human Services might not take kindly to the custodial parent allowing children to play with something bigger than a match.

Unfortunately none of these suggestions were heeded. Instead the event was promoted to the max. The quite drum circle of over twenty years was now touted as a flaming spectacular event, sort of the "Burning Man" of Maui.  The presents of fire at the drum circle in such great amounts is a rather recent addition.

For many of the long established users of Little Beach the prospect of burning fuel on their body was not conducive to a restful day at the beach.

Sunday night January 21, 2007 the number of revelers probably exceeded five hundred. The smell of alcohol mixed with the aroma of burning herb as well as white gas.

The eight year old girls looked pretty competent compared with some of the older dancers. Tonight the smell of burning flesh was associated with the efforts of a drunken twenty year old male trying to untangle his balls of fire while holding them painfully close to his own.

Park closing time is now 7:45 pm with an expectation that all that stay behind will be cited trespass.

The fire promoters failed to make this information known on their "in your face poster" posted over the DLNR's access sign and other places about town.

After 8 o'clock at least twenty revelers were cited by the DLNR for being in the park. Puzzled tourist some of whom did not understand the language wondered what all the fuss was about. Few understood at first that a mandatory court appearance is required. A bit of a dilemma for those catching a plane in the next few days.

Update on events of January 17, 2007   On this day Bryan Axtell appeared in the District Court for a pretrial hearing to establish the time of a hearing on the charge of having a fire in Makena State Park. Gean Evans was appointed to represent Bryan in court. Evans reported that the Department of Land and Natural Resources would accept $50 and $30 in court cost to consider the matter closed. Evans explained that if Bryan challenged and lost the cost would be higher.  Dr. George R. Harker was present for the discussion. Harker asked Evans to look at the park regulations regarding fire (the same material represented below). Harker also noted that the regulations regarding fire did not address the concept of an "open flame" in any way and were irrelevant regarding the issue of a fire dancer's torch.

In court when Bryan's turn finally arrived the Judge requested both the defense and the public defender to the bench. After a short session the public defender told Bryan to sit down and that he had "passed." Only twenty minutes later at a recess did we learn that the Prosecution was reluctant to drop the charge without the consent of the DLNR. Other cases were handled by the Court as Bryan's was passed by until word was obtained from the DLNR. Another hour or so later Bryan was again called to court. The judge asked the Prosecution what they wanted to do and they indicated they wanted to drop the matter. The Court ruled that the case was dismissed with prejudice and Bryan was free to go.

On reflection and information gleaned from the proceedings it appears that the all parties in the Court did not see any violation of park regulations. The DLNR is developing a reputation for bringing obviously flawed materials to the court and then acting surprised when the matters can not be carried forward.

It will be interesting to see if one can have a fire within Makena State Park. DLNR officials recently indicated that an individual wishing to cook a steak could go to any beach and grill the steak but not within Makena State Park.

On November 26, 2006 a Bryan Axtell was cited for having a fire in Makena State Park. The fire was on the tip of a fire dancer baton. On December 17, 2006 two other fire dancers were cited for having a fire in Makena State Park. Department of Land and Natural Resources officers in the Law enforcement division waited until the dancers were leaving the park to issue the citations.

Fire dancing is a tradition that has been going on for many, many years at Makena State Park and one has to wonder what is going on now that fire dancers are being cited for having a fire which is rather central to the idea of being a fire dancer.

Apparently there is a new policy on fire in the park. Effective sometime in the last few months it has been decided that fires are just not permitted in the park period. A careful reading of newly posted signs bears out the idea that fires are not permitted in this government area. Other things not permitted are automobiles. For more on that check this link when it is activated.

But Makena State Park is not just some piece of forgotten real-estate owned by the state of Hawaii, it is after all a state park subject to certain rules and regulations that control its use. The regulation regarding fires is as follows and was the basis for the citation issued in all cases mentioned above.

§13-146-20 Fires. (a) Fires are permitted only: (1) In picnicking and designated camping grounds where the fire will be confined in fireplaces or in grills;

The fire dancers were cited under §13-146-20 (a) (1). Apparently the fire dancers had to be in a fireplace or grill to meet this criteria. That fireplace or grill had to be in a picnicking and designated camping grounds to be recognized as meeting the criteria for a fire.

A conversation with the park Superintendent Phil Ohta confirms that there are no designated picnicking areas in the park much less a fireplace or grill. There is also no water but what has that got to do with anything.

Case closed. Be they fire dancer or hot dog roaster it is clear that one can not have a fire in Makena State Park. Apparently the infraction is a misdemeanor and will require a court appearance. I hope the judge is lenient and they are credited with time serve and it will be stricken from their record if they do not do it again in the next five years.

But wait a minute? Is that the complete regulation? No read on and learn the rest of the story as Paul Harvey would say.

(2) In other locations, including back country, wilderness, and remote sections of the premises when a written permit has been secured from the board or its authorized representative;

Goodness they could get a permit. Perhaps that would be a workable solution. I mean this has been going on for years obviously there has been an implicit permission on the part of park officials and other authorities for many years. Why the change at this time? Why is this implicit permission being revoked at this time?
Get the issues on the table, too much fun, too popular, too many tourist, too sacred, whatever, and work them out and authorize a permit to allow this very traditional use at Little Beach at Makena State Park.

(3) On portions of the premises designated by the board or its authorized representative for fires. No permit is required for fires in the designated areas, which shall be posted;  Here is another solution for the board. Simply designate Little Beach as the site for fire dancing. Put up a big sign, one that flashes just like the highway crews use. Well, maybe not. Just let the enforcement guys know that fire dancing in this location is not a problem and leave them alone.

(4) In stoves or lanterns using gasoline, kerosene, propane, butane, wood, charcoal, briquettes, gas, alcohol or other fuels. Wow!! Look at this, one can cook a hot dog or have a stove or lantern that burns gasoline, kerosene, propane, butane, wood, charcoal, briquettes, gas, alcohol or other fuels. Open flames all, but then you say it says nothing about being in the park. But it does all the rules are about fires in the park. But if you want more specific support the obvious question is whether you are in picnicking or a designated campground.

Let us take a look at the rule for picnicking:         §13-146-30 Picnicking. A person may picnic except in designated campgrounds and in those locations prohibited  by the board or its authorized representative by the posting of appropriate signs. The board or its authorized representative may also establish reasonable limitations on the length of time any person may use picnicking facilities by the posting of appropriate signs when limitations are necessary for the accommodation of the general public. [Eff 4/16/90; comp June 08 1999] (Auth: HRS §184-5) (Imp: HRS §184-5) Well look at that! You can picnic anywhere except where posted that you can not or in a designated campground. One can picnic at Little Beach, Big Beach or anywhere else in Makena State Park. A close review of the signs reveals that while fire are not allowed picnicking is allowed. As we have shown if you can picnic you can eat cooked food prepared on your stove burning gasoline, kerosene, etc.  Of course you can light your lantern aka fire baton if you choose and not be in violation of (1) above.

(b) No person shall allow a fire to burn in a manner that surrounding shrubs, grasses, trees, or other combustible matter, or structures will be burned, scorched, or damaged.  Good advice for anyone working with fire and certainly not an issue with the fire dancers who stay clear of combustible material as a mater of course.

(c) When no longer needed, fires shall be completely extinguished. No person shall leave a fire unattended. 146-9  Fire batons burn themselves out when the fuel is gone and that is when the performance ends.

(d) No person shall discard unextinguished cigarettes, cigars, pipe heels, matches, live coals, or other burning material, provided, however that live coals may be deposited in ash pits wherever they are provided.
[Eff 4/16/90; am and comp Jun 08 1999] (Auth: HRS §184-5) (Imp: HRS §184-5)

Common Baby light my fire!

Brian is the first person cited for having fire in the State Park in recent memory. He has chosen to plead not guilty and has requested a jury trial. Since he has little money he will be defended by the public defender.

January 17, 2007 is the date of his pretrial hearing. Dr. George R. Harker has offered to appear as an expert witness. He is knowledgeable in park regulations in general and specifically to those of Hawaii. Harker has been recognized in Federal, State and County Courts as an expert in Hawaii, New York and Florida.

The new hire involved in this action is testing the waters to see how this ticket will fly on a rather simple issue such as NO FIRE. With some success he will undoubtedly move into the enforcement of the park regulation involving nudity which reads as follows:  §13-146-38 Swimming; nudity. (a) A person may swim
or bathe except in waters and at times where these activities are prohibited in the interest of public health or safety. These waters shall be designated by posting of appropriate signs. No person shall bathe, swim, walk, sunbathe, or remain on the premises in the nude, or take outdoor showers in the nude, except for bathing or changing clothes within enclosed facilities provided for those purposes or for the exposed breast of a nursing mother in the act of breastfeeding an infant.

Just for your information nudity is defined: "Nude" means uncovered post-pubertal human genitals, pubic areas, or the nipple or areola of post-pubertal human female breasts.

Feel free to offer moral or financial support to Dr. Leisure's Friends of Makena State Park, PO Box 1137, Kihei, HI 96753. Dr Leisure's biggest expense is gasoline to run over to Wailuku. Used to be one could use PayPal but that option is gone. Checks payable to the Church and School of International Detante will be used in support of Dr. Leisure's Friends of Makena State Park. The Church is recognized in Hawaii as tax exempt.

Contacts if you wish to make a statement.  Stewards of Makena

Friends of Makena State Park

Friends of Makena State Park was formally formed in 2003 to assist the Hawai'i Department of Land and Natural Resources in the stewardship of  Makena State Park.

Membership is open to anyone interested in the stewardship of  the unique natural resource that constitutes Makena State Park situated on the island of Maui in the Hawai 'i Islands. The world famous nude beach known as Little Beach is contiguous to Makena State Park.

To declare your membership and to receive the electronic newsletter of Dr. Leisure's Friends of Makena State Park click this link: LittleBeachMaui-subscribe@topica.com  and send a blank email.

Dr. Leisure's Friends of Makena State Park
PO Box 1137
Kihei, HI 96753

--Dr. George R. Harker can be reached by email at drleisure1@aol.com.

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Copyright 2007, Dr. Leisure

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