Na Kilo Aina Nohona

Keiki having fun dressing up as wildland firefighters at Na Kilo Aina Nohona.

Keiki having fun dressing up as wildland firefighters at Na Kilo Aina Nohona.

On October 12, HWMO staff members Elizabeth Pickett, Melissa Kunz, and Orlando Smith set-up a wildfire prevention activities table at Na Kilo Aina in Honokoa. Various other community organizations, agencies, and businesses joined in on the fun by hosting groups of keiki to learn about stewardship of the aina.

 “Na Kilo Aina practices place-base awareness that emphasizes pilina or relationships. This encompasses the holist interactions of our communities with our environment speaking to the wealth of our lands and waters as well as the wealth of our families and community members. In building and strengthening a community of observers we remember who we are through listening to our aina and activating all senses of kilo working towards Aina Momona: productive and thriving communities.” - Honokoa (Kailapa Community Association)

The event was hosted by Honokoa, a Firewise Community in Kawaihae. For the 5th year in a row, they held the camp which brought in dozens of bright-eyed participants. At HWMO’s table, keiki visited to learn about wildfire prevention measures they could take with their families. They also got to dress in real wildland fire gear to experience what it would be like to be a wildland firefighter. Keiki drew creative wildfire prevention signs, as well.

Mahalo Honokoa for inviting us to this incredible event!

Na Kilo Aina Nohona 10/12/17

Puako Reef and Tidepool Exploration

Mauka wildfires impact makai waters. Many people don’t realize that wildfires can have long-lasting impacts that affect our watersheds, drinking water, and coral reefs. After a wildfire, soils are left bare and especially after more intense wildfires, those soils can become hydrophobic or “scared of water.” Rainfall events that frequent our islands can wash away thousands of years of top soil into our waterways, taking along with it trash, debris, chemicals, and other pollutants, eventually smothering our fragile coral reefs.

In 2016, Maui had its worst wildfire season in many years. With barely any vegetation left in the burned areas to hold down silty soils, a mid-September storm rained down on the burned lands and carried trash and debris through our watersheds and out into the ocean.
Chad Wiggins points out species living in Puako's tidepools.

Chad Wiggins points out species living in Puako's tidepools.

On September 23, a few HWMO donors from the Firefighter Chili Cook-Off who bid on experiences at the silent auction joined expert marine naturalist Chad Wiggins and HWMO Executive Director and Malama Kai Foundation’s Ocean Warriors program founder, Elizabeth Pickett in Puako. Together, they explored Puako’s diverse and ecologically important tide pool and reef systems. During the tide pool exploration portion, they learned about the plants and animals that live at the intersection of ocean and land while identifying local intertidal organisms. For the reef exploration portion, the attendees learned about coral reefs and the current coastal challenges such as post-fire erosion that threaten them. Of course, we also focused on actions we can take to protect our shorelines, including preventing wildfires!

Puako Reef and Tidepool Exploration 9/23/17

Waikii Ranch Firewise Hazard Training and BBQ

Community members from all over Waikii Ranch participated in the community's first Firewise Day on September 23, 2017.

Community members from all over Waikii Ranch participated in the community's first Firewise Day on September 23, 2017.

Waikii Ranch, which is surrounded by fire-prone grasslands on all sides, is a community near Waimea that is well on its way to being one of the next nationally-recognized Firewise Communities as of 2017. They took another major step on September 23 by hosting a Firewise Hazard Training and BBQ, which qualified as their annual Firewise Day. Over 25 community members joined in to listen to presentations from HWMO and our partners from Hawaii Fire Department, U.S. Army-Garrison Fire and Emergency Services, and DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. HWMO’s Pablo Beimler gave a presentation on wildfire impacts, background on wildfire preparedness programs (Ready, Set, Go! and Wildfire Lookout!), and a brief intro to the Firewise Communities Recognition Program.

From left to right: Gary Grisham (Waikii Ranch Firewise Committee), Jacob Witcraft (DLNR DOFAW), Pablo Beimler (HWMO), Chief Eric Moller (US Army-Garrison, FES), and Captain Bill Bergin (HFD). Photo credit: Lynn Scully.

From left to right: Gary Grisham (Waikii Ranch Firewise Committee), Jacob Witcraft (DLNR DOFAW), Pablo Beimler (HWMO), Chief Eric Moller (US Army-Garrison, FES), and Captain Bill Bergin (HFD). Photo credit: Lynn Scully.

U.S. Army’s Chief Eric Moller spoke thereafter with the main message being that by becoming a Firewise Community, residents were taking an important step towards protecting themselves as well as the lives and safety of first responders. Captain Bill Bergin from HFD followed with several Firewise tips and background on some of the fire issues and history in Waikii. Jacob from DOFAW’s State Tree Nursery also spoke about the importance of creating defensible space and recommended the community plant more native trees and understory to reduce wildfire risk. To wrap up the presentations, a resident of Puu Kapu who lost her home in a recent brushfire gave a first-hand account of her harrowing experience evacuating the fire. She stressed the importance of planning ahead and it was a truly courageous thing for her to share her story in front of so many people.

After the speakers shared their thoughts, a member of the Waikii Ranch HOA put on a Firewise video outlining tips on Firewise landscaping and home fire-proofing. 

The event concluded with a BBQ where fire officials mingled with community members and enjoyed delicious grindz. Thank you Waikii Ranch HOA for hosting all of us and being a part of the growing Firewise movement in Hawaii.

Waikii Ranch Firewise Hazards Training and BBQ 9/23/17

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative 1st Annual Bocce Ball Tournament

HWMO team getting ready for the bocce ball tournament. Photo credit: Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative.

HWMO team getting ready for the bocce ball tournament. Photo credit: Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative.

We, at HWMO, like to help our friends out whenever and wherever we can, even if it means facing some of the toughest bocce ball players on the island. On what started as a beautiful sunny day at Anna’s Ranch and concluded with a downpour of rain for the final games on September 10, Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative held its first ever Bocce Ball Tournament fundraiser. Teams from all over the island battled it out for bocce-rolling glory and an amazing cause to preserve and restore the precious native forests of Waikoloa. Bocce, a lawn-bowling game rooted in similar ball games that date all the way back to the Roman Empire, is a game that everyone can enjoy and participate in. However, there are certainly those who rise above the rest in skill and competitiveness. 

HWMO's bocce team in its third game fell to a very skilled team, but not without a fight.

HWMO's bocce team in its third game fell to a very skilled team, but not without a fight.

HWMO, to support WDFI, put together a team with beginner players from the staff and board: Melissa Kunz, Pablo Beimler, Tom Loomis, and Dave Faucette. After losing in the first game of the double-elimination tournament, HWMO resurged with a victory that came down to inches and could have gone either way. In the third game, however, we were no match for some very skilled players on the opposing team and were thus eliminated. Even though we would have loved to make it further in the tournament, we were quite content with our finish after watching the later rounds and the skill and mastery displayed by the final teams. And, of course, we were happy to support our friends from WDFI and be a part of such a fun event.

If you missed out on the action, you can still support WDFI by visiting: http://waikoloadryforest.org/get-involved/donate

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative 1st Annual Bocce Ball Tournament 9/10/17

Firefighter Chili Cook-Off for Wildfire Prevention

Wildfires have serious impacts on communities and natural resources from summit to sea. HWMO is filling an important niche in Hawaii by bringing together a wide variety of communities and collaborators to reduce wildfire impacts across the State of Hawaii and in the Western Pacific. In order to keep our flame alive, we rely on donations like any other 501(c)3 non-profit organization. That's why on August 26, we held our first major fundraiser: Firefighter Chili Cook-Off for Wildfire Prevention (which also made the front page of West Hawaii Today on August 28!)

A beautiful day under blue skies, and later under the stars.

A beautiful day under blue skies, and later under the stars.

The event attracted people from all over the islands (and some from the mainland, as well) -- over 200 people came to taste chili and have a good time. Parker Ranch was gracious enough to provide a beautiful venue, a historic red barn behind the Rodeo Arena, and lend equipment and volunteers. They also showcased their camouflage brush truck, which the kids had a blast exploring.

Five firefighter teams were on hand to dish it out (quite literally) in a chili cooking competition. The teams were as follows:

1) Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) Admin: Chief Ren Victorino and Chief Glen Honda
2) HFD Ladder 14: Christian and Maddy Cook; Kilipaki and Angela Kanae
3) HFD BC2Chili: John and Katy Whitman; Bethany Stimac
4) Big Island Wildfire Coordinating Group (BIWCG): Chief Gantry Andrade and Jack Minassian
5) Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA): Chief Eric Moller; Kimo and Annie Yamanoha; Cory Prough, Hunter Rapoza

Big Island Wildfire Coordinating Group serving their dish.

Big Island Wildfire Coordinating Group serving their dish.

HFD Ladder 14 went all out with their smoky decor. 

HFD Ladder 14 went all out with their smoky decor. 

Each team cooked their own chili recipes using as many local ingredients as possible. Kahua Ranch, Ponoholo Ranch, and Robby Hind were generous enough to donate meat for the firefighters. With wide grins and flame-filled decorated service stations, the firefighters served the chili to attendees, hoping to win their votes later in the evening. But first, it was up to the legendary chef, Sam Choy, to determine the best chili of the night. The winner? Drum roll...HFD Admin! Their dish won over Sam Choy's taste buds as it was, in his words, the best representation of Hawaiian-style chili (and it was also very delicious). The crowd agreed, too, as they chose the same chili for the People's Choice Award. This is not to say that all of the teams aren't winners in our book -- they all dedicated so much volunteer time to make this event happen and kept our visitors delighted and satiated with their delicious chilis. 

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We also had delectable dishes donated by various food sponsors: vegetarian chili from Tommy Bahamas, rice and sheet cake from KTA, mac salad from Lilikoi Cafe, and cornbread from Mamane Bakery. Spicy Ninja Sauce donated an array of hot sauces at the condiment bar. Beer was donated by Big Island Brewhaus and Kona Brewery, juice was donated by Hemp2o, and coffee was donated by Waimea Coffee Company. 

Attendees trying the different chilis including Senator Lorraine Inouye (middle, blue).

Attendees trying the different chilis including Senator Lorraine Inouye (middle, blue).

David Tarnas showcasing all of the different chili entries.

David Tarnas showcasing all of the different chili entries.

Miles Nakahara recognized for his years of service to the islands and the organization.

Miles Nakahara recognized for his years of service to the islands and the organization.

Throughout the night, serenading live tunes were performed by Donald Goddard and Widdy Loo, and Jonathan Brooke (of the Pau Hana Pickers) and Richard Griffin. During one of the intermissions, HWMO held a special ceremony for all of the new Firewise Communities, three of which showed up in full force that night: Kanehoa, Waikoloa Village, and Honokoa (Waialea and Puako were also honored, but unfortunately, Firewise Committee members were unable to attend). Kohala Waterfront also came out in numbers -- they are on pace to be certified by the end of the year!

Councilman Tim Richards and Senator Lorraine Inouye were also on hand to speak about the importance of wildfire prevention and HWMO's work. We also held a special ceremony for Miles Nakahara who was instrumental in the founding of HWMO and its continued success in the early years. 

The event was a smashing success and we were able to raise at least $20,000 to help continue our work to protect communities, lands, and waters from wildfire in Hawaii. Of course, it couldnʻt have happened without everyone who joined us and all who put in so much time and effort into organizing and volunteering. And a big mahalo goes out to all of the sponsors involved. These are all the people, businesses, and organizations that made it happen - mahalo nui loa!:

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FINAL Program 2017 Firefighter Chili Cook-Off_Page_1.jpg
Firefighter Chili Cook-Off for Wildfire Prevention 8/27/17

Kohala Waterfront Firewise Meeting and Ready Set Go! Workshop

Kohala Waterfront homeowners joined HWMO and the Firewise Committee to learn more about how they could help the community become a nationally-recognized Firewise Community.

Kohala Waterfront homeowners joined HWMO and the Firewise Committee to learn more about how they could help the community become a nationally-recognized Firewise Community.

Kawaihae is becoming a hot bed, not just for wildfire, but for grassroots community efforts to reduce the wildfire threat in the fire-prone area. Kohala-By-The-Sea and Honokoa subdivisions have received Firewise Communities recognition inspiring Kohala Waterfront, a newer subdivision on the makai side of the highway opposite of the two other subdivisions, to pursue certification for 2017. 

On August 17, HWMO and Kohala Waterfront Firewise Committee hosted a meeting of twelve concerned and enthusiastic Kohala Waterfront homeowners to hear highlights from the Firewise Community Hazard Assessment conducted by HWMO and Hawaii Fire Department a few months ago. We shared our concerns about the sea of buffelgrass that surrounded homes throughout the subdivision and unlimbed kiawe trees that were dangerously encroaching upon homes. Although it may seem daunting at first, Kohala Waterfront has a lot working towards their advantage, especially since they are a newer subdivision and can get the community going in the right direction by becoming a Firewise Community early on. We gave tips based on Ready Set Go! and Wildfire Lookout! on how residents could reduce the fire threat around their homes or better yet, as a community. 

Kohala Waterfront is well on their way to becoming one of the next Firewise Communities, of which there are now nine in the state. 

South Kohala CDP Action Committee Presentation

Pablo Beimler pointing to a map of wildfire hazards in Northwest Hawaiʻi Island during the CDP presentation. Credit - David Tarnas

Pablo Beimler pointing to a map of wildfire hazards in Northwest Hawaiʻi Island during the CDP presentation. Credit - David Tarnas

On July 24, HWMO gave a presentation at the South Kohala Community Development Plan Action Committee meeting at the Waimea Senior Center. A Community Development Plan, CDP for short, provides an opportunity for community input for establishing County policies that can then be put into action. Wildfire is featured in the South Kohala CDP, especially considering South Kohala is known for the largest brushfires in the entire state. As a reminder to why wildfire is included in the CDP, we shared to a couple dozen people, including the Action Committee, about the various fire hazards that threaten communities in South Kohala. The threats are not just vegetation and environmental conditions, but also building materials, subdivision-level hazards (such as poor access and ingress/egress), lack of water access, and not enough community engagement. 

Our presentation was preceded by a presentation from our partners from South Kohala Coastal Partnership. Julia Rose, the Marine Coordinator for SKCP, highlighted how wildfires directly impacted our nearshore resources, especially after large post-fire storm events. The Kawaihae fire was a topic of discussion during the meeting. The enormous fire in 2015 charred thousands of acres, but soon thereafter, a large storm dropped heavy rain in the area that led to dangerous flooding, shutting down roads and businesses and forcing evacuations of residents. Planning for fire is necessary to ensure events like these are prevented and we hope to see the CDP continue to integrate wildfire concerns and actions into the planning process, whether from integrating WUI codes and ordinances to finding ways to increase public participation in wildfire solutions.

PFX/HWMO Palehua Wildfire Mitigation Strategies Workshop and Field Tour

Opening circle and prayer to begin the day.

Opening circle and prayer to begin the day.

Pacific Fire Exchange (PFX) and HWMO linked up on July 17 to hold an exciting day of fun and learning in Palehua, just mauka of Makakilo on Oʻahu. PFX’s Clay Trauernicht, Melissa Kunz, and Elizabeth Pickett spent several weeks planning this wildfire mitigation strategies workshop that led into a field tour as a follow-up to a workshop they put on at the PICCC conference several months ago. HMMO’s Pablo Beimler also joined the workshop as a helping hand. The Palehua workshop was tied into the Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference as a pre-conference event that interested conservationists could attend. Thirty or so people from various agencies and organizations including National Park Service, Honolulu Fire Department, Fed Fire, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and University of Hawaiʻi joined the event. 

The day kicked off with a workshop at Palehua Camp, formerly Camp Timberline, amongst tall trees and with scenic views of the Ewa area below. Clay Trauernicht gave a brief presentation on fire science using data he was synthesizing from the HWMO fire history database. Some interesting new factoids included:

* 75% of fires in Hawaiʻi are accidental

* 75% of fires in Hawaiʻi occur under drought conditions

* Over 80% of areas burned in Hawaiʻi are grassland/shrubland areas

Clay also shared about values at risk and their vulnerabilities. He adapted an equation he learned from a recent climate adaptation workshop, to fit into the fire science framework:

Vulnerability = exposure (fire hazards) + resource sensitivity (sensitivity to fire) — adaptive capacity (wildfire mitigation)

Elizabeth followed Clay’s presentation by highlighting various mitigation strategies. With these presentations in mind, the participants broke into groups for a computer-based activity. The groups picked a “designated mouse driver” and dug into the wildfire hazards and values at risk in Palehua using Google Earth. Once they determined areas of concern and the hazards that threatened those areas, they determined mitigation strategies they could apply to the area to reduce the fire hazard. They then shared their findings with the rest of the workshop participants. Anu and McD, two men who knew Palehua on the back of their hands, blessed us with examples of mitigation strategies they had actually implemented or planned to implement in the area. 

Breaking out into groups to discuss wildfire mitigation strategies for Palehua.

Breaking out into groups to discuss wildfire mitigation strategies for Palehua.

Scanning through Google Earth to determine areas of concern and wildfire hazards in Palehua.

Scanning through Google Earth to determine areas of concern and wildfire hazards in Palehua.

The workshop then shifted into a field tour as participants hopped into vans for the afternoon. The first stop was an overlook area where one could see where the 2014 Makakilo fire started and took off. The fire was an intense one that killed over 200 wiliwili trees and charred several homes. Mikiʻala Akiona, Public Education Specialist for Honolulu Fire Department, noted how difficult the fire was to suppress due to the many hot spots and restarts that occurred. The group then stopped towards the top of Palehua at a ranch-style building called Hokuloa, which had been used as a staging area and command center for large fires. Participants learned about the importance of having the right fittings for water tanks (as well as the need for suction hoses) and for creating fuelbreaks horizontal to the slope. Throughout this discussion, the participants had a spectacular view of central Oʻahu, which became increasingly obscured by a large rain cloud headed their way. 

Looking out over the area where the Makakilo 2014 fire started.

Looking out over the area where the Makakilo 2014 fire started.

Group photo in front of Nānakuli backdrop.

Group photo in front of Nānakuli backdrop.

Rain cloud headed towards the group while looking towards Kunia.

Rain cloud headed towards the group while looking towards Kunia.

Back of Nānakuli Valley where remnant native forests still exist.

Back of Nānakuli Valley where remnant native forests still exist.

The group then traveled up to a cabin for views of the north side of Palehua, where the discussion turned its focus toward the 2016 Nānakuli Fire that threatened homes and resources such as communication towers. The final stop added a little bit of adventure to the day. The participants hiked up to the top of Mauna Kapu through bamboo forests, stopping for a chant led by Anu before reaching the sacred peak. Once atop the mauna, Gary Gill, a large landowner in the area, gave background on how special the place they were surrounded by was. The area used to have one of the highest concentrations of native tree snails, but the population had been steadily declining within the last couple of years. There were several populations of different varieties of native birds still calling the area their home. Previous fires had burned ʻiliahi forests in the back of Nānakuli Valley, but about half of them had recovered, although they were much more stunted in growth than before. 

The workshop and field tour was a memorable one for us all and we hope that the valuable lessons and conversations that took place were of value for all of the participants. Mahalo to all who came out for a special day in Palehua.  

PFX-HWMO Wildfire Mitigation Strategies Workshop and Field Tour of Palehua 7/17/17

Parker Ranch 4th of July Rodeo 2017

Melissa Kunz of HWMO talking to visitors about the upcoming Firefighter Chili Cook-Off.

Melissa Kunz of HWMO talking to visitors about the upcoming Firefighter Chili Cook-Off.

August 26 is just around the corner. What’s so special about that date? HWMO is having its first major fundraiser that day. Save the date!

The Firefighter Chili Cook-Off will showcase four teams of local firefighters who will go face-to-face in a chili competition judged by none other than Sam Choy, one of the founders of Pacific rim cuisine. There will, however, also be a people’s choice award winner. That’s where you come in! Come join us for a barn-good time by trying the different chili recipes using local ingredients from the island. The event’s very first sponsor was Parker Ranch, a long-time friend of the organization. 

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Parker Ranch was gracious enough to not only provide a beautiful space for the event, but they also let us have a booth right near the grandstands for the extremely popular 4th of July Rodeo and Horse Races event. HWMO’s team set-up a booth to sell tickets for the event, while also distributing hundreds of invites to visitors. The Chili Cook-Off was also announced several times on the PA for the hundreds of visitors to hear.

We hope you can join us for the Firefighter Chili Cook-Off. Tickets are available now — don’t miss out!

Mahalo nui loa, Parker Ranch!

Parker Ranch 4th of July Rodeo 7/4/17

Ready Set Go! Workshop with HFD New Recruits

Pablo Beimler presenting to HFD recruits back in November 2016.

Pablo Beimler presenting to HFD recruits back in November 2016.

HWMO fills a niche even in training firefighters on wildfire prevention and mitigation strategies. On June 30, HWMO’s Pablo Beimler gave a presentation to twenty-or-so new Hawaiʻi Fire Department recruits. Pablo began by playing a video we produced last year on how wildfires impact our coastlines (watch below). Following the video, he dove into the various programs that HWMO used to teach residents and large landowners about wildfire prevention and protection: Ready, Set, Go!, Firewise Communities, and Wildfire Lookout! We thank Captain Bill Bergin and the rest of HFD for the opportunity to speak to a new class of brave firefighters.