2018 CTAHR Agriculture and Environmental Awareness Fair

 Hundreds of keiki visited the many outreach booths, including HWMO's, at this year's event.

Hundreds of keiki visited the many outreach booths, including HWMO's, at this year's event.

We traveled to Oahu to talk to over 500 students about wildfire and its impacts on our watersheds, ocean, and critical protein source (fish) due to post-fire erosion and runoff. On February 9, the keiki came from various schools in Central Oahu to the Pearl City Urban Garden Center as part of University of Hawaii CTAHR’s Agriculture and Environmental Awareness weekend. We had so much fun being around such engaged and enthusiastic youth — they were also quite knowledgable, as well. Even within a short 5-minute span with each class, the students learned a lot about how wildfire impacts our watersheds and they were able to connect the dots right away. They also quickly pointed out that the best way to cut off this cycle was to stop it at the source: to prevent wildfires!

Mahalo UH CTAHR for inviting us to join this year!

CTAHR Agriculture and Environmental Awareness Fair 2/9/2018

Nanawale Estates ReadySetGo! Workshop and Firewise Intro

 The Nanawale Estates community members who came to the workshop are willing and ready to help the community become a Firewise site.

The Nanawale Estates community members who came to the workshop are willing and ready to help the community become a Firewise site.

We started the week by working on recruiting a potential new Firewise Community in Puna on the Big Island (which would be the first on the east side). Proactive Nanawale residents and HOA staff joined us for a wildfire preparedness workshop on February 5 at the Nanawale Longhouse. We guided the workshop attendees through the Ready, Set, Go! program and encouraged them to pursue looking into becoming a nationally-recognized Firewise Community. Following the presentation, we walked over to a nearby home to practice assessing a home ignition zone for wildfire hazards (the best way to learn is out in the field!)

During the workshop, we held an input session to hear about the wildfire-related concerns of community members. Some key concerns included albizia control, lack of ingress/egress, and lack of continuous support from legislators. We then discussed possible solutions that could help address these issues. Nanawale is no stranger to environmental hazards. In 2014, the Pahoa lava flow threatened the community and the recent Hurricane Iselle proved very damaging to the community, which was largely out of power for several weeks. The community may not have gotten the federal aid and even local government support they had hoped for, but they took matters in their own hands anyways by supporting each other. This is a key function of a Firewise Community that is fire-adapted to its surroundings: building community resilience for the long-run is most impactful and effective when the whole community comes together.  

Nanawale Estates ReadySetGo! Workshop and Firewise Intro 2/5/2018

South Kohala Conservation Action Plan - Climate Action Planning Workshop

Climate change is a serious threat that is already having a major impact in Hawaii, and there are no signs that the threats and impacts will go away. In fact, an overwhelming percentage of scientists predict they will worsen. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCOOS), and South Kohala Coastal Partnership (SKCP) invited various partners who are stewards of South Kohala to discuss climate change threats, impacts, and solutions for 3 days at Anna’s Ranch in Waimea from January 23-25. Using climate change as a framework to update the South Kohala Conservation Action Plan, an effort that started in 2010, the workshop pinpointed six major climate threats that could have a big impact for South Kohala’s coastal and marine resources. 

 Teams discuss their rationales behind ranking certain threats higher than others.

Teams discuss their rationales behind ranking certain threats higher than others.

 On the last day, teams shared their climate action ideas including coastal policy changes and reforestation strategies.

On the last day, teams shared their climate action ideas including coastal policy changes and reforestation strategies.

What are those major threats?

Warming of ocean temperature, sea level rise, ocean acidification, reduced rainfall, increased storms, and…you guessed it, more frequent and damaging wildfires. HWMO was invited to speak on the first day to talk about the mauka to makai effects of wildfire: fires in South Kohala have notoriously led to large erosion / flooding events (check out our video on the Kawaihae Fire and Floods for more information). Post-fire sediment that is carried out to the ocean can be detrimental to coral reefs and all who live off of them, including fish and us humans. 

 View of Kohala Mountain and the watersheds that connect the vulnerable forests with the sensitive coastlines.

View of Kohala Mountain and the watersheds that connect the vulnerable forests with the sensitive coastlines.

 Chad Wiggins of TNC points out mauka to makai connections, while we look out from the ocean towards the coast.

Chad Wiggins of TNC points out mauka to makai connections, while we look out from the ocean towards the coast.

Due to increasing conditions that are ripe for more frequent and severe wildfires in South Kohala, including warmer temperatures, decreasing annual rainfall, and increasing consecutive dry days, we could be in for more destructive land based pollution events that destroy reefs. This goes hand in hand with the scientific predictions of increased storms in Hawaii, which, after a wildfire, can make matters a whole lot worse for erosion and sedimentation and thus for our coastal and marine ecosystems. Check out our infographic on climate change’s impacts on wildfire for more information.

On the 2nd day of the workshop, we were part of a “mauka” breakout group where we ranked the threats of fire, storms, and reduced rainfall as contributors of coastal and marine impacts. Fire repeatedly came up as a major threat that needed to be addressed seriously in South Kohala. 

In order to think BIG about action planning for South Kohala, workshop attendees were invited to join in on an afternoon of sailing from Kawaihae Harbor to Puako. The sailboat was graciously donated by Maile Charters for the purpose of building stronger connections between the various agencies and organizations involved with SKCP and to look at the connectedness of South Kohala from the vantage point of being on the water. As an added bonus, whales and dolphins frequently visited the boat and we were able to swim around Puako’s reefs to experience the beautiful coral and marine life that are critical to the health of our ecosystems and communities. Before an epic sunset, HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, performed spoken word about the Hokulea’s important message that we need to work together as one “Island Earth” and work with Mother Nature rather than against her.

 Setting sails for an adventure experienced by various SKCP partners.

Setting sails for an adventure experienced by various SKCP partners.

 Sunsets and whales an added bonus.

Sunsets and whales an added bonus.

The final day of the workshop revolved around finding solutions. Breakout groups developed actions that could improve coastal health and reduce climate threats. Pablo shared HWMO’s vision of having communities be buffered by native and Firewise living fuelbreaks, which would also help bring communities together. Better water management and increased water resources was also a key discussion and was ranked very high by the entire group as an important next step for South Kohala. In another smaller breakout group, TNC’s Chad Wiggins, Hawaii State Parks’ Dena Sedar, and Pablo brainstormed ideas to reforest South Kohala (ranked highly as an important next step) with the intention of reducing wildfire threats, increasing watershed health, and improving community engagement, livelihoods, and employment/career opportunities.

 The planning area and what is at stake. Working together is the only path forward to build climate resilience.

The planning area and what is at stake. Working together is the only path forward to build climate resilience.

After three days with so many enthusiastic, positive, intelligent, and conservation-minded folks, we feel more determined to continue the important work we are doing to make South Kohala a more vibrant area, even in the face of worrying climate predictions. We are more resilient when we work together and that is a major reason why the South Kohala Coastal Partnership exists and is taking on this climate action planning process. We are extremely grateful for being a part of this partnership and look forward to collaborate with all involved to ensure our coastal areas, cultural resources, landscapes, and communities are safe from or adapted to climate impacts such as wildfire.

Thank you to The Nature Conservancy, NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and South Kohala Coastal Partnership for inviting us to be a part of this monumental effort!

South Kohala CAP Climate Action Planning Workshop 1/23-25/18

FAC Net Webinar on Sustained Community Wildfire Engagement

HWMO is a proud affiliate member of the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network where members from across the nation share their lessons learned from moving communities towards greater resilience to wildfires. On January 11, HWMO Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Akira Beimler, facilitated a panel discussion on a network-wide webinar. The panel topic was on “Sustained Community Wildfire Engagement.” HWMO and three other speaks from across the U.S. shared what has and hasn’t worked for them in terms of motivating communities towards self-sustaining wildfire risk reduction. Community engagement and self-reliance in wildfire protection can lift a remarkable weight off of agency and non-governmental groups. It takes everyone to create fire-adapted communities. 

Check out the panel discussion videos below, which were recorded and posted on YouTube by our partners from FAC Net. 

Major mahalo to FAC Net for the opportunity to lead this discussion and to our friends from FireWise of Southwest Colorado, Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation, and Project Wildfire (in Oregon) for sharing their expertise. 

Pablo Beimler from Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization talks about the role of fire in Hawaii and shares some of HWMO's successful community engagement efforts.
Charlie Landsman from Firewise of Southwest Colorado talks about their Firewise Ambassadors program and how they keep sustainable community engagement throughout Southwest Colorado.
Crystal Beckman from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation presents about some of their community wildfire engagement efforts. Crystal's talk includes information about how they work with their adult education partners to host community lecture series as well as some other community resources they have available.
Alison Green of Project Wildfire in Deschutes County, OR talks about their successful 20-year-old Firefree program as well as other community engagement efforts.

 

 

Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove Firewise Hazard Assessment

The Firewise Communities movement is spreading to Oahu! Over the last two years, HWMO has assisted 10 communities in becoming nationally-recognized Firewise Communities. There are now 11 official communities in Hawaii, part of a network of over 1,400 across the U.S. Those 11 communities are located on Hawaii Island and Maui. That is soon to change as proactive residents and community organizations from Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove are taking the necessary steps towards making their beloved community in Hawaii Kai a Firewise Community. 

 Private landowners, contractors, farmers, legislators, community groups, government agencies...we are truly seeing a Firewise Community in the making where all stakeholders play an important role. 

Private landowners, contractors, farmers, legislators, community groups, government agencies...we are truly seeing a Firewise Community in the making where all stakeholders play an important role. 

This year has been a particularly stressful one for Kamilonui Valley Farm Lots and Mariner’s Cove residents. Over a dozen suspicious fire starts, a few that grew into larger fires, had burned close to the community in the first half of 2017. Since then, the community has been charged to take action. HWMO linked with Livable Hawaii Kai Hui and Senator Stanley Chang’s Office to organize a community-wide Firewise hazard assessment on November 27. Together with representatives from DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, Royal Contracting, and Kamilonui Farm Lots, the working group walked and drove around the community to examine common wildfire hazards and areas for potential wildfire risk reduction projects. 

The assessment team first convened at the Mariner’s Cove Bay Club to map out an itinerary for the day, determine priority community areas to examine on the field assessment, and establish boundaries for the Firewise Community designation. Following the meeting, the team walked along an access road off of Hawaii Kai Drive, visited Pahua Heiau, and caravanned to the end of Kamilonui Place to examine the wildland area in the back of the valley. Along with these priority areas, the team also visited a home to conduct a “Home Ignition Zone” assessment to gain a better idea of the wildfire hazards at the individual lot level and pull locally-relevant examples of best practices for creating defensible space and fire-proofing structures.

 The assessment team examining fuels, or flammable vegetation, along the wildland border of Kamilonui-Mariner's Cove.

The assessment team examining fuels, or flammable vegetation, along the wildland border of Kamilonui-Mariner's Cove.

 Hearing from a resident about her wildfire hazard concerns.

Hearing from a resident about her wildfire hazard concerns.

Once HWMO completes a written report of the hazard assessment, they will present their findings to the working group and the larger community in February 2018. The working group will take recommendations provided in the report into consideration when they develop an action plan for wildfire risk reduction activities in their community.

We thank all of the partners who joined us for the hazard assessment and are excited for what’s to come in 2018 for Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove!

Kamilonui-Mariner's Cove Firewise Community Hazard Assessment 11/27/17

Kanehoa Firewise Native Plant Workshop

Kanehoa, a subdivision halfway between Kawaihae and Waimea on Hawaii Island, was the second community in Hawaii to become a nationally-recognized Firewise Community. Since 2015, they have contributed hundreds of volunteer hours and linked with HWMO for a couple of $5,000 grants to remove flammable vegetation from along internal roadsides. As part of the next step in their action plan, they hope to plant more native vegetation along common areas and around their own homes. 

 2016 Firewise Day: Kanehoa residents took fuels reduction into their own hands with a $500 grant from State Farm and $5,000 grant from HWMO to remove haole koa from roadsides. Here is a before...

2016 Firewise Day: Kanehoa residents took fuels reduction into their own hands with a $500 grant from State Farm and $5,000 grant from HWMO to remove haole koa from roadsides. Here is a before...

 ...and after.

...and after.

Native dryland plants can be an added defense for your home, though like with any plants, site location and what you plant matters greatly for fire safety reasons. On November 4th, Kanehoa Firewise Committee members invited HWMO to join them for a Firewise Native Plant Workshop. Fifteen community members listened in as guest speaker Jill Wagner of Hawaii Island Seed Bank talked story about the importance of restoring native plants in our own communities. The area between Puu Waa Waa to Kohala Mountain on the leeward side was one of the most biodiverse areas in Hawaii, she shared. Years of drought, invasive species and disease stress, overgrazing, climate change, and wildfire have contributed to the demise of the native forests, which act as important watersheds. We have seen some success in recent years towards preserving and restoring these native forests with the emergence of strong conservation partnerships and efforts, better grazing practices targeted towards conservation and wildfire risk reduction, and wildfire protection projects that span the South Kohala area. However, there is still a lot to be done and we can all play a large role even around our own homes. 

Ms. Wagner brought in a few native plants of her own for Kanehoa residents to pass around and get to know better. She enlightened us on ground covers such as iliee, akia, pohinahina and pau o hiiaka; shrubs such as aalii, aweoweo, and alahee; and trees such as mamane, lama, ohe makai, and wiliwili. If these names are unfamiliar to you or you would like to learn more, click on the links below. 

Firewise Workshop 2018 in Boise

HWMO had the honor on October 31 to share about its Firewise Communities successes (and challenges) at the national Firewise Workshop hosted by the National Fire Protection Association in Boise, Idaho. Community Outreach Coordinator for HWMO, Pablo Beimler, presented on the importance of laying the foundations for community-wide grassroots and sustained actions towards becoming a Firewise Community. This requires building autonomy, pride, inspiration, and enthusiasm in community members, along with agency and governmental support.

 View of Boise from the foothills near the city.

View of Boise from the foothills near the city.

Hawaii was well-represented at the workshop that was held at the Grove Hotel. Representatives from Honolulu Fire Department and DLNR Division of Forestry were there with HWMO, thanks to funding support NFPA. We were informed about updates relating to Firewise and joined interesting group discussions regarding the future of wildfire risk reduction work in the U.S.

As an added bonus, with our friends from HFD and DOFAW, we took part in a two-day training on assessing the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ). The training was taught by two extremely knowledgeable wildland fire experts: Jack Cohen, who many consider being a father of modern wildfire mitigation theory and practices, and Pat Durland, who has 30 years of experience as a wildland firefighter and mitigation specialist. Together, they gave engaging lessons on fire ecology and science, the sociology behind assessing homes, and more. On the final day of the training, we hopped on the bus with the other training participants, who hailed from across the U.S., and practiced assessing home ignition zones in a local Firewise Community. 

 Trainees practicing their new home ignition zone assessment skills at a home in a local Firewise Community.

Trainees practicing their new home ignition zone assessment skills at a home in a local Firewise Community.

 Jack Cohen (right) provides insight regarding home ignition hazards around a practice home.

Jack Cohen (right) provides insight regarding home ignition hazards around a practice home.

Big thanks to NFPA for inviting and flying us to Boise to share about our efforts and learn from experts in the field!

Firewise Workshop 2018 in Boise

Anuenue Playground Build Day Care Outreach

 Credit: Big Island Video News

Credit: Big Island Video News

An amazing showing of community support made the headlines in Waimea this week. Over 600 community members came out, even through pouring rain, to help rebuild the Anuenue Playground. Already, parents and children are raving about the rebuilt community asset that will provide lasting memories for years to come. 

HWMO joined in on the effort by teaching wildfire prevention and preparedness at the day care center established for the playground build. Pablo Beimler, Community Outreach Coordinator, met with over a dozen smiling and enthusiastic young children who played several rounds of fire tag and dressed up as wildland firefighters on October 25. 

Thank you to Anuenue Playground for all you do for the community and for inviting us to take part as an event sponsor!

Banner photo credit: Big Island Video News

Puu Kapu Firewise Community Hazard Assessment

The Firewise Communities movement in Hawaii continues to grow. There are now 11 Firewise Communities in Hawaii, 10 of which HWMO has assisted in the last two years. Puukapu Farm Lots, which spans thousands of acres of Department of Hawaiian Homeland-owned pasture in Waimea on Hawaii Island, is the latest candidate for becoming a Firewise Community. HWMO has a new round of funding from the US Forest Service, with additional help from State Farm, to assist at least 4 more communities towards becoming a nationally-recognized Firewise Community. Puukapu residents have jumped on the opportunity early, aiming to become certified in 2018. 

The homestead community has had many encounters with brushfires over the years, especially during droughts and summer months. The most recent large fire that occurred in and around Puukapu was a 2,200-acre wildfire that started on July 7, 2017. The fire originated from one of the lots on the southwest end of Puukapu and, fueled by strong prevailing trade winds, quickly spread through the adjacent Parker Ranch pastures towards Highway 190. The start of the fire is now suspected to be an accidental start from fireworks. Several residents stayed to fight the fire with garden hoses before first responders could arrive to protect a home on one of the properties. Other residents also helped by driving skid steers or tractors to create firebreaks. Fortunately, no human casualties resulted from the blaze. The fire did, however, burn down a home and vehicle and took the lives of a couple of sheep on another property. There was also significant damage to fencing, waterlines, and water tanks on both Puukapu private lots and Parker Ranch lands, let alone the thousands of acres of pasture that were burned.

 July 2017 brushfire that burned in Puukapu and towards the highway. Credit: Hawaii Tribune Herald

July 2017 brushfire that burned in Puukapu and towards the highway. Credit: Hawaii Tribune Herald

As a response to the latest fire, several community members gathered on October 20, 2017, to meet with HWMO and Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) representatives to conduct a community-wide Firewise hazard assessment. The assessment team first convened at the entrance of Poliahu Alanui to map out an itinerary for the day and determine priority community areas to examine on the field assessment. The team drove throughout the subdivision, examining various water resources and wildland borders along the way Along with the priority areas, the team visited a few homes to conduct a “Home Ignition Zone” assessment to gain a better idea of the wildfire hazards at the individual lot level and pull locally-relevant examples of best practices for creating defensible space and fire-proofing structures. 

 The assessment crew examining a standpipe in Puukapu.

The assessment crew examining a standpipe in Puukapu.

 Taking notes on a dip tank that has the potential for use during wildfires.

Taking notes on a dip tank that has the potential for use during wildfires.

Once HWMO completes a written report of the hazard assessment, they will present their findings to the new Firewise Committee formed by Puukapu community members. The Committee will take recommendations provided in the report into consideration when they develop an action plan for wildfire risk reduction activities in their community.

We thank the Puukapu community members and HFD for joining the hazard assessment and look forward to their continuing partnership in this effort to establish Puukapu as a Firewise Community.

Puukapu Firewise Community Hazard Assessment

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.

Since 2016, the community has been a certified Firewise Community with the help of HWMO. They have done an amazing job creating a culture of fire awareness in the community and have even taken large steps towards greater overall hazard resilience. For example, they are in the final stages of completing a large pavilion that can serve as an evacuation shelter during emergencies. 

Thank you Kailapa Community Association for inviting us to the camp and for all of your efforts this year in reducing wildfire risk!

Na Kilo Aina Nohona 10/12/17