Kohala Waterfront Firewise Educational Evening

Kohala Waterfront Wildfire Prep Day 2018

Kohala Waterfront Wildfire Prep Day 2018

Kohala Waterfront, a relatively new community in Kawaihae, invited HWMO’s Pablo Akira Beimler to join them for an educational evening on wildfire preparedness. In 2017, Kohala Waterfront became the 3rd community in Kawaihae on Hawaii Island to be nationally recognized as a Firewise Community. As an annual requirement, a Firewise Community must hold at least one educational event.

On February 11, 18 Kohala Waterfront homeowners gathered at the home of Firewise Chair, Marla Herman (Marla and her husband, Scott were amazing hosts). Pablo kicked off the night with a presentation on the Firewise Communities program, Ready, Set, Go!, and lessons learned from the memorable 2018 wildfire year in Hawaii. Following his presentation, Ms. Herman demonstrated what to pack in a “Go! bag” — the essentials that you need to evacuate early when a wildfire is in the area.

Mahalo Marla and the rest of the Kohala Waterfront Firewise Committee for continuing to raise the wildfire awareness level each year!

Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership Meeting Presentation

View of the wildland-urban interface of West Oahu from atop Palehua.

View of the wildland-urban interface of West Oahu from atop Palehua.

HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, met with Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership on June 26 in Palehua on the leeward slopes of the Waianae Mountains in West Oahu. Pablo presented and introduced to the group the vegetative fuels management mapping project HWMO was coordinating to improve landscape-level prioritization, collaboration, and funding capabilities of fuels management. HWMO will be working with the partnership to hold a workshop in the coming months to gather data for the project.

Banner photo: Conservation managers, members of the Waianae Mountains Watershed Partnership, assess damages to the native forest preserve areas after the Nanakuli Fire in 2016. Photo credit: Dr. Clay Trauernicht, UH CTAHR Cooperative Extension

Annual Kauai Brushfire Meeting 2018

For this year’s annual Kauai Brushfire Meeting, HWMO’s Executive Director, Elizabeth Pickett, flew to Kauai and joined a room full of first responders (including Chief Robert Westerman), other agency officials, and land managers to share updates and plans for the coming months in preparation for wildfires. Kauai may be the Garden Island, but wildfires are a frequent occurrence on the island during drier periods and especially during droughts, which are predicted to be a possibility in the beginning of 2019.

Kauai Brushfire Meeting brings together government, NGO, and local business representatives together to keep each other updated on the latest wildfire news and management projects. Photos are from the 2016 meeting.

Kauai Brushfire Meeting brings together government, NGO, and local business representatives together to keep each other updated on the latest wildfire news and management projects. Photos are from the 2016 meeting.

South Kohala CDP Action Committee Meeting Presentation

On June 4, HWMO presented at a community meeting about the latest wildfire updates, including on Firewise Communities and the Wildfire LOOKOUT! campaign. The meeting was a regularly held public meeting for the South Kohala Community Development Plan, or CDP for short.

Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018

Over the years, HWMO has come to understand that wildfire-related challenges are faced by a wide array of professionals and citizens, including more than just those focused on emergency response. HWMO, through a grant from the U.S. Forest Service, held the first ever Hawaii Wildfire Summit between April 30 and May 4 at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows to bring together not just fire professionals, but people working in riparian and marine conservation, cultural resource protection, the visitor industry, planning professionals, and community groups from across Hawaii, the Western Pacific, and the rest of the U.S.

Pre-Summit: NFPA Assessing Structural Ignition Potential for Wildfire Course

The first two days were dedicated to the NFPA course on Assessing Structural Ignition Potential from Wildfire. Participants included firefighters, land managers, and homeowners who learned the ins and outs of fire and its interaction with the built environment. Wildland fire expert, Pat Durland, who traveled from the mainland to teach the course, also shared valuable information on the latest research for improving the survivability of a home during a wildfire.

Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - NFPA ASIP Training
Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - Lei Making Party 5/1/18

Summit Main Event

The main event began on Wednesday, May 2, kicking off two days packed with presentations and workshops from over 40 speakers, including our two keynote speakers, Gloria Edwards of Southern Rockies Fire Science Network and Dr. Steve Quarles of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. A wealth of knowledge was shared throughout the summit by these speakers with the diverse audience. Speakers highlighted lessons learned, best practices and innovations in wildfire protection. Check out the list of speakers and their bios by clicking the buttons below.

Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - Summit Day 1 5/2/18
Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - Summit Day 2 5/3/18

HWMO emphasized the importance of using creativity and outside-the-box thinking to get out of our comfort zones, a point that keynote speaker Gloria Edwards so eloquently urged in her presentation. To spur creativity and collaborative dialogue, HWMO encouraged participants to take part in several activities during the breaks and the first evening's meet-and-greet:

* A collaborative Summit to Sea art project
* A collaborative ideas sharing space
* Casting ballots for a statewide youth wildfire prevention bookmark contest. Submissions were from students at Kamaile Academy in Waianae and Kohala and Waikoloa Schools on Hawaii Island. 


Smokin' Word

To cap off the event and to further encourage participants to use their creativity and get out of their comfort zones, we held a "Smokin' Word" open mic. Various brave volunteers, from local fire chiefs to representatives from national programs, gave spoken word performances about "why we do what we do, what we are aiming to protect, and to ignite applause and laughter." We were extremely pleased to see our colleagues dig into their creative space and shake off some nerves to share their great pieces. Professional spoken word artist (and HWMO Community Outreach Coordinator), Pablo Akira Beimler, rounded out the open mic with a performance of his poem in tribute to the summit and all of the inspiring work happening by the people in the room to make Hawaii a better, safer place to live. 

We also had a great turnout of Firewise Community members from Hawaii Island and Maui-- almost all Firewise Communities in Hawaii were represented! Firewise committee members Lisa Chu-Thielbar (Kanehoa), Gordon Firestein (Launiupoko), and Diane Makaala Kanealii (Honokoa) presented lessons learned and background about their Firewise efforts during the general session on the 2nd day. We had a Firewise gathering at the end of the 2nd day where participants played "get to know you bingo" to frantically and comically break the ice. From this point onward, HWMO is committed to forming a statewide peer learning network between all of the Firewise Communities. 

Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - Post-Summit Activities


Field Workshop

On the final day of the summit, a large group of the summit attendees hopped aboard vehicles to caravan around the South Kohala area to visualize much of what was discussed indoors at the Mauna Lani. The Pacific Fire Exchange field workshop began at the Upper Waikoloa Road Intersection to ground the participants in a sense of place and seeing a landscape-level view of the summit-to-sea watersheds of South Kohala. Then, it was on to Wai Ulaula Waimea Nature Park, where participants learned about watershed planning and about the local native forest. The following stop helped participants understand the wildfire threat that threatens the native forests and the subsequent post-fire flooding that has vastly impacted Hawaii's shorelines. What better place to talk about wildfire than in Kawaihae, where the 2014 wildfire burned thousands of acres and threatened many homes, burned millions of dollars of timber, and post-fire flooding shut down businesses and impacted the livelihoods of local residents. Representatives from Hawaii County Fire Department and National Park Service shared their lessons learned from responding to the massive fire. 

After lunch with a beautiful view of the South Kohala Coastline and a jolt from an earthquake in Kilauea, the group walked to the Puu Kohola Heiau visitor center to learn the history of the sacred site. The group then walked along a trail to learn more about the conditions that are ripe for wildfire in Kawaihae. They continued walking down to Pelekane Bay, the site of intense post-fire runoff and coral reef decay. 

The field workshop ended in Puako where Peter Hackstedde shared about the community's efforts to create a large fuelbreak behind homes and their recent Firewise Community recognition efforts. Paniau was the final stop and a nice place to wrap-up the summit to sea discussion. Some workshop participants stayed for a snorkel tour of the reef. 

Great job, Melissa Kunz, on coordinating such a smooth, exciting, and informative field workshop!

Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - Field Workshop 5/4/18

Here is a thank you letter from our Executive Director, Elizabeth Pickett, to the summit participants:

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Kauai Watershed Alliance Presentation

Flammable fuels on Kauai.

Flammable fuels on Kauai.

On April 12th in Lihue on Kauai, Pablo Akira Beimler, HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator, gave a presentation to the Kauai Watershed Alliance. The KWA is a multi-partner alliance that encompasses 144,004 acres of Kauai’s uppermost watershed areas, where there are rich remnants of native forest important to the health of the Garden Island. Pablo introduced the group to an important effort that HWMO was working on and invited KWA members to be a part of the effort. What’s the effort? We are conducting a statewide rapid assessment to better understand the vegetation management needs and priorities of landowners and land managers. This will help all of us plan, coordinate, and implement effective fuels management projects at the landscape-level, rather than in a piece-meal fashion.

WUI Conference 2018

Opening day of the conference.

Opening day of the conference.

HWMO’s Pablo Akira Beimler flew to Reno to join over a hundred other professionals working in wildland-urban interface wildfire issues, from fire chiefs to insurance agents to wildfire mitigation specialists from across the U.S. and abroad. The conference was a prime opportunity for HWMO to stay connected to the latest in wildfire solutions and with national partners including NFPA, Firewise USA, IAFC, ReadySetGo!, Cohesive Strategy, and Fire Adapted Communities. At the end of the conference, Pablo joined a Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network session, which gave us an additional opportunity to connect with others doing similar work in other parts of the U.S.

WUI Conference 2018

Collaborative Vegetation Management Mapping Workshop 1 - Mauna Kea Partners

Mauna Kea partners were busy at work mapping fuels management projects on Google MyMaps.

Mauna Kea partners were busy at work mapping fuels management projects on Google MyMaps.

Across the state, there are many vegetation management projects that are helping to reduce the fire threat around natural/cultural resources and near communities. However, there currently isn’t a way to track all of these projects and the desired areas for future management of flammable vegetation. Stemming from an idea communicated to us from an HWMO Technical Advisor and US Fish and Wildlife partner, Dawn Bruns, we have received US Forest Service funding to create a statewide database and map of vegetation management projects. 

Meeting participants worked in groups to map their fuels management projects.

Meeting participants worked in groups to map their fuels management projects.

We held our first workshop with our partners from the Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance (MKWA) and Three Mountains Alliance (TMA) on January 30 at the Hawaii Innovation Center in Hilo. Elizabeth Pickett, HWMO Executive Director, started the workshop off with an introduction to the project, emphasizing how important this project will be for future collaborative fuels management projects. Dr. Clay Trauernicht, Wildfire Extension Specialist of University of Hawaiii CTAHR Cooperative Extension and Co-Coordinator of the Pacific Fire Exchange, gave a brief course on fire science and pre-fire planning and management. Pablo Akira Beimler, HWMO Community Outreach Coordinator, followed with a training on Google MyMaps, which was the main platform we used to collect data from meeting participants. 

Cheyenne Perry, Coordinator of Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance, points out areas where he hopes there can be collaborative vegetation management projects on Mauna Kea.

Cheyenne Perry, Coordinator of Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance, points out areas where he hopes there can be collaborative vegetation management projects on Mauna Kea.

For the rest of the workshop, meeting participants began mapping their current and desired vegetation management projects on Google MyMaps. Once the projects were mapped, we projected the new data onto a screen and had the groups share about their work areas and what they envision for a more fire-safe Mauna Kea. 

HWMO will be spending the rest of the summer holding workshops across the islands. If you would like to participate, please contact 

Special mahalo to MKWA Coordinator, Cheyenne Perry, and TMA Coordinator, Colleen Cole, for being our first workshop partners. Mahalo also to Mauna Kea Forest Restoration Project and U.S. Army-Garrison for joining our workshop and being our workshop “guinea pigs”!

Collaborative Vegetation Management Mapping Workshop in Hilo with MKWA and TMA 1/30/2018

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.