Presentations

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.

 

 

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

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

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

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. 

Hawaiʻi Environmental Education Symposium 2017

 Elizabeth Pickett shares lessons learned from the youth stewardship program she runs called Ocean Warriors.

Elizabeth Pickett shares lessons learned from the youth stewardship program she runs called Ocean Warriors.

Much of what HWMO does falls under the category of “environmental education.” Talking about wildfire prevention requires making the connection that our built environment is intertwined with the natural world. From June 8 through 10, the Hawaiʻi Environmental Education Alliance hosted a symposium for it’s sixth year to gather environmental educators from across the state. HWMO attended the symposium, which was held at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Kilauea Military Camp, on June 9. The theme this year was climate change, a topic that has numerous intersections with wildfires in Hawaiʻi. 

The day began with a sobering, yet very informative talk from Dr. Chip Fletcher, a scientist from UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. His talk gave insight on a multitude of factual examples of how climate change has already taken Hawaiʻi by storm, no pun intended. Of those many examples, increased drought and shifts in vegetative cover were highlighted, conditions that will continue to increase wildfire risk statewide. Throughout the rest of the day, various educators shared examples of how they had used climate change as a framework to teach valuable lessons about the environment. Elizabeth Pickett, HWMO’s Executive Director, is not only a wildfire educator, but she is also youth environmental stewardship educator through the Malama Kai Foundation Ocean Warrior’s program. Elizabeth gave a presentation about the program and shared lessons learned on how to best encourage youth to become environmental leaders in their community.

HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, also gave a presentation on behalf of Hawaii Wildfire. His presentation highlighted various youth products that HWMO has produced for educators including our very own K-8th grade curriculum, kNOw Fire. Several educators from across the state were on hand for the presentation, some of whom enthusiastically expressed that they were willing to integrate the curriculum into their own work. 

HEEA Symposium on Climate Change 6/9/17

Hawaiʻi Kai Community Safety Town Hall Meeting

 Packed house for the Hawaiʻi Kai Community Safety Town Hall Meeting on June 6, 2017.

Packed house for the Hawaiʻi Kai Community Safety Town Hall Meeting on June 6, 2017.

 Cameron Sato (left), Office of Senator Stanley Chang, and Pablo Beimler (right), HWMO in front of Kamilonui Valley burn scar.

Cameron Sato (left), Office of Senator Stanley Chang, and Pablo Beimler (right), HWMO in front of Kamilonui Valley burn scar.

As part of a double-header of community safety events in Hawaiʻi Kai, Representative Gene Ward, Senator Stanley Chang, Councilmember Trevor Ozawa, and Senator Laura Thielen again teamed up, this time to hold a public safety town hall meeting on June 6. Just the night before, HWMO gave a workshop on wildfire readiness to fifty or so community members. At the June 6 meeting, seventy-five people were in attendance to hear updates from Honolulu Fire Department, Honolulu Police Department, and HWMO.

Several community members also voiced their concerns about what they felt were safety issues in their community. After the meeting, we spoke with a number of community members regarding specific fire safety concerns in the area. HWMO will be following up in Hawaiʻi Kai with additional support for Firewise Communities certification and hopefully soon, a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Big mahalo to Senators Chang and Thielen, Representative Ward, and Councilmember Ozawa for having us be speakers at the two meetings and to HFD, HPD, and DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife for their added support.