Although Upcountry Maui may not typically be known as being at risk of wildfire, more and more wildfires have threatened communities even in areas that might be considered “wet.” The El Niño-caused drought conditions early in 2016 contributed to wildfires across that state that occurred in wetter areas including in Kula. In February, a wildfire burned within the Waiohuli homestead (Kula Hawaiian Homes), prompting residents to take action. In the spring of 2016, HWMO assisted the community with a $5,000 grant from U.S. Forest Service WUI funds. With the project money, the community hired a contractor to create a wide fuelbreak behind nearly a dozen homes along the edge of a wildland area. As a next step, the community is on board for becoming a Firewise Community, joining Launiupoko and Kahikinui on Maui to become the first Maui Firewise Communities.
As one of the first steps towards certification, HWMO’s Pablo Beimler met with Lance De Silva of DOFAW to conduct a wildfire hazard assessment for the community. Even though the area looked “green” as they drove around the neighborhood, fire was still on the mind, especially considering how fast the plants there dried out during the El Niño drought. Once HWMO puts a report together of the assessment, the Waiohuli Firewise Committee members will develop an action plan and hold a Ready, Set, Go! Workshop led by HWMO. The workshop would count as their first Firewise Event, putting them in great position to become a Firewise Community as of 2016!