Waikoloa Garden Events

Make A Difference Day 2016

WVA Board President, Amy Swan, endures the high winds of Waikoloa to clear debris from the garden.

On October 22, people from all across the country participated in Make A Difference Day, a day of unity and service that has occurred annually since 1992. Volunteers really do make the world go round. 

Waikoloa played host to a Make A Difference Day service event at the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park. HWMO, Waikoloa Village, and Waikoloa Village Fire Management Action Committee worked together to beautify the Firewise demonstration garden on what turned out to be a very windy day. That did not stop volunteers, including the village association’s president, Amy Swan, from picking up leaves and caring for the native Firewise plants at the garden. 

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Wildfire Prep Day 2015

For the 2nd straight year, communities from across the nation gathered together to take action to reduce the wildfire hazards in their neighborhoods. We joined in on the national effort by organizing our second Wildfire Prep Day event at the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park next to the community pool in Waikoloa on May 2nd. Within three hours of the morning, we were able to accomplish quite a lot with our partners and community members, working towards the goals of having a heightened wildfire awareness and a well-developed preparedness skill set. 

The event started off with a few words from our Board president, Mike Tomich, highlighting the need for wildfire preparedness in the most fire-prone area in the State of Hawaiʻi. This was not new news to many of the event's visitors, who had experienced some of the largest fires in history first-hand. 

HWMO President (on left) Mike Tomich talks about importance of wildfire preparedness.

Nice, sunny day with moderate windy conditions - practicing situational awareness or "Set" of the Ready, Set, Go! Program

Following the opening speech, we held a Firefighter Meet-and-Greet where community members and keiki were able to explore the wonders of the fire engine and ambulance on hand. Hawaii Fire Department firefighters gave tours of the apparatuses and even let the kids get their hands on the steering wheel (though with ignition off, of course!) 

Keiki learn the ins and outs of firefighting equipment from local HFD firefighters.

Future fire engine operator?

Waikoloa CERT members soak in the sun.

After the tours, people were able to interact with members from Waikoloa CERT, National Fire Protection and Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, who all set-up booths for the event. We also had a Keiki Craft Corner where kids were able to color in new Kaleo the Pueo art and create wildfire prevention signs. 

The second half of the event focused attention on the Firewise demo garden. Tom Loomis, Garden Manager and Firewise teacher extraordinaire, led a group of keiki through a Firewise Plant Game Show. While Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative's Jess held a plant in hand, Tom described the plant to the keiki to help them determine whether a plant was a good Firewise plant, a neutral one, or a bad one. The keiki translated these into smiley faces on their score cards. We showed them a variety of plants including "happy face" plants like ʻaʻaliʻi, ʻilima oʻahu, and kuluʻī; "neutral face" plants like dill and ʻawa; and "sad face" plants like pepper tree and pili grass. The students were spot-on with their landscaping decisions, knowing that plants that were drought-tolerant, native, and wind-resistant were the best candidates for becoming part of our Firewise garden.

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative's Jess holds a sandalwood (ʻiliahi) during the Firewise Plant Game Show.

Getting a feel for kuluʻī and its heat-resistant silvery leaves.

Local HFD firefighters help plant various native plants like kuluʻī in our Firewise garden.

This led us into the final segment of the preparedness day event: a native planting volunteer session. Firefighters, keiki, CERT members, and others took part in getting their hands dirty (and rocky) by planting 75+ native plants to demonstrate how easy and enjoyable planting natives in the garden could be.

Wildfire Prep Day was a huge success nationally and here at the local level. We thank all of our amazing partners for their support of the event: Hawaii Fire Department, Waikoloa CERT, Waikoloa Firewise Committee, Waikoloa Village Association, Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, National Fire Protection, and National Fire Protection Agency. 

Getting silly with our amazing partners and volunteers!

Ocean Warriors Kohala - Fire Lesson at the Firewise Garden

On January 24th, we partnered once again with the Ocean Warriors after-school program, part of the Malama Kai Foundation, to further familiarize students with wildfire issues in Hawaii and what the community can do about them. The Ocean Warriors program is an experiential youth program for local middle school students that engages them in "coastal stewardship and protection." Saturday's group of students, who traveled from North Kohala, joined us at the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park for a morning of fun and learning. We introduced the students, who we had already taught about wildfire issues in Hawaii, to the concepts of creating defensible space and hardening the home by walking them through the Ready, Set, Go! Action Guides we helped developed for Hawaii. However, leafing through a booklet was only a small portion of the learning experience. We wanted to fully ingrain the students in the concepts of Ready, Set, Go!, so we took the students on a scavenger hunt of the native plant garden. The students had to interview native plants, check out the demo home structure to learn how to fire-proof a home, and find a strange coconut hanging on one of the non-native pepper trees. Following the scavenger hunt, we engaged the students in some community action by taking them to the highest risk area of Waikoloa Village and handing out flyers to the residents about the upcoming CWPP community meeting in Waikoloa and the Wildfire Preparedness Team meeting on February 4th at 6 P.M. at the Waikoloa Community Room. The students had a blast running door-to-door - we hit about 100+ houses in an hour! We were so lucky to be working with such outstanding young citizens.

In April, we will be collaborating with the program for their end-of-the-year showcase where the students will present, in a creative fashion, what they have learned this year (including about wildfire) to the community. Stay tuned for information on the exact date and time of the event!

Banner photo: Ocean Warriors students in the forefront read about how to fire-proof a home while students in the back read about native plants.

Ocean Warriors Waikoloa Group A - Fire Lesson and Flyering

Our flurry of Ocean Warriors meet-ups and volunteer efforts continued on Saturday, January 17th with a group of students who we hadn't met, yet, and were new to the wildfire world. The Ocean Warriors after-school program, part of the Malama Kai Foundation, is an experiential youth program for local middle school students that engages them in "coastal stewardship and protection." The Saturday event began with a wildfire lesson through a storyboard presentation at the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park. Once the students got a sense of the wildfire issues in Hawaii, we led the students through a scavenger hunt to familiarize the students with the Firewise demonstration garden. Students quickly grasped the basic concepts of the Ready, Set, Go! program and how they could help the community become more aware of the wildfire situation and what homeowners could do about it. To take that to the next level, the HWMO team took the students to the highest risk area of Waikoloa Village and handed out flyers to the residents about the upcoming CWPP community meeting on January 28th at 6 P.M. at the Waikoloa Community Room and the Wildfire Preparedness Team meeting on February 4th at 6 P.M. also at the Waikoloa Community Room. We had a blast with the students, who are becoming outstanding, knowledgeable citizens. 

In April, we will be collaborating with the program for their end-of-the-year showcase where the students will present, in a creative fashion, what they have learned this year (including about wildfire) to the community. Stay tuned for information on the exact date and time of the event! 

Banner photo: Scavenger hunt keeps students engaged in the garden.

Ocean Warriors (Group B) Waikoloa Garden Cleanup Afternoon

In an ongoing effort to teach middle school students the importance of being prepared far in advance of wildfire season, we took the first of three groups of Ocean Warriors students to the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park for a garden cleanup afternoon. The Ocean Warriors after-school program, part of the Malama Kai Foundation, is an experiential youth program for local middle school students that engages them in "coastal stewardship and protection." We consider the students "stewards of the garden" - the afternoon event was these students' first volunteer action at the garden.

Last month, we introduced the students to the wildfire issue in Hawaii and about the Ready, Set, Go! Program that touts creating defensible space as one of many important ways to be prepared for a wildfire. The students put the core concept into action by helping tend to the demo garden that has taken off with the recent rain events. A great number of the plants that have "taken off" are native, drought-tolerant plants that can help protect one's home from wildfire. A number of non-native weeds such as the never-dying bougainvillea did grow, as well. Students grabbed gloves and hand trowels and set out to take these pesky weeds out of the garden. In addition, they also collected leaves blown-over from a neighboring non-native invasive tree and placed them in trash bags.

Our garden manager, Tom Loomis also chipped in by sawing off the lower branches of the pepper trees on the property to 10 feet off the ground in accordance to Firewise principles. In just a couple of hours, the students managed to beautify the garden while also protecting it from the threat of wildfire. We hope their actions will inspire you to take action on your own home. Find out more of what you can do here: http://hawaiiwildfire.org/ready-set-go2.html.

In April, we will be collaborating with the program for their end-of-the-year showcase where the students will present, in a creative fashion, what they have learned this year (including about wildfire) to the community. Stay tuned for information on the exact date and time of the event!

Banner photo: Ocean Warrior students dig deep for weeds at the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park.

Waimea Middle School IKAIR Day - Wildfire Lesson

Waimea Middle School students traveled by the busloads to a variety of different service sites for this year's IKAIR Day. Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization played host to 15 students and their teacher and TA for a morning at the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park. HWMO's Tom Loomis led the students through a series of fun activities with the help of Education and Outreach Coordinator Pablo Beimler and GIS Specialist Orlando Smith. The day started with a special chant by the students followed by a quick introduction to what HWMO had in store for the group. To kick things off, students were each handed a puzzle piece with either a "heat", "oxygen", or "fuel" label on it and were told to match up with their matching pieces. Within a few minutes, everyone was part of a Fire Triangle - the basis for understanding how fires start and act. Students were then led up to the neighboring parking lot for a game of fire tag. Through the exciting game, students gained an understanding for how wildfires can dramatically change Hawaii's ecosystems: from native dryland forests to fire-prone grasslands. 

Mr. Loomis continued the morning with a discussion on the difference between urban firefighters and wildland firefighters. Of course, rather than lecturing about it, we played a card sorting game to show that wildland firefighters were unique in that they had to carry out all of their equipment to wildfires. On that note, students got up and dressed up as wildland firefighters with equipment generously donated by National Park Service and Division of Forestry and Wildlife. To show just how difficult being a wildland firefighter was, a few students put on heavy packs and ran around the garden - we were stoked to see so many pack test finishers! Running around with a pack was certainly part of wildland firefighting, but we were missing the key ingredient - putting out the fire. Students took part in a thrilling Bucket Brigade team building exercise. Two teams duked it out to fill up a water bucket, the catch being the designated firefighter had to toss water from one bucket to another to fill it up. On top of that, the rest of the team had to carry a bucket of water suspended on a large handkerchief that they had to hold and steadily carry over to the firefighter. It was a tight finish, but the winning team made a big splash!

As noon edged nearer, Mr. Loomis taught students the basic principles of Firewise landscaping and Hardening the Home. What it came down to was good housekeeping. To demonstrate, students helped pick up debris blown over by a neighboring non-native tree. Within minutes, the native garden was looking spick and span thanks to their help. As a closing activity, we set up a watershed diorama to replicate post-fire erosion and its negative impacts on coral reefs. 

We had an amazing time with the students who most importantly had fun and learned a lot. Before the day begun, most students labeled themselves as 1s and 2s on a scale of 1 through 10 (10 being "I know everything about wildfire"). At the end of the day, most labeled themselves as 6s and 7s, which made us extremely happy to see! 

Big mahalo to the students who came out and to Ms. Shafer and Ms. Diana and to Waimea Middle School for helping make this special day possible.

Banner photo: Waimea Middle School students huddle around to get a better look at Hawaii's wildfire history.

Wildfire Preparedness Day - Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park 2014

May 3rd was the first ever National Wildfire Preparedness Day! Communities from across the nation rallied to hold events to help raise wildfire awareness, promote collaboration and bring neighbors together to work on projects that protect homes, neighborhoods and entire communities.

HWMO organized a day of fire preparedness fun and festivities at the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park in Waikoloa Village on Melia Street. HWMO partnered with Hawaii Fire Department, Waikoloa Community Association, Waikoloa Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, and Malama Kai Foundation to put on the event. 

As part of our prevention efforts, we created the first and only fire preparedness demonstration garden in Hawaii. The Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park demonstrates how to reduce the impacts of wildfires through defensible space, Firewise landscaping and fire resistant building materials. This garden is primarily made up of low-maintenance, native Hawaiian species that are resistant to drought, wind, and heat. The garden also exhibits Firewise principles including various landscaping techniques and maintenance guidelines for zones around the home: 10 ft., 30 ft., and 100+ ft. 

The event kicked off with a garden tour led by an Ocean Warriors student, followed by opening speeches from Hawaii Fire Department's Chief Darren Rosario, HWMO's Vice President Sam Patten, and HWMO's Executive Director Elizabeth Pickett. The crowd continued to grow as the opening ceremony progressed as more families arrived. To add to the excitement, Hawaii Fire Department's firefighters arrived in an ambulance and fire truck, segueing into the next activity: tours of the apparatuses. A dozen or so keiki met with firefighters to learn about the ins-and-outs of being a firefighter and the cool tools and devices they get to use. There were waves of smiles from the keiki, who were brimming from the excitement of such a unique opportunity to connect with the firefighting community. 

Following the firefighter meet-and-greet, the crowd gathered in the garden and began to plant the 230+ native dryland plants (including 'ihi, pohinahina, and 'ilima papa) that HWMO hauled in for the event. With the incredible help from our community members, we were able to plant each and every start in the garden - 230+ plants in under two hours of planting! 

After the plantings, the crowd moved under the tents for a craft event - Ocean Warriors, Future Foresters, and other keiki helpers designed and painted signs with wildfire prevention messages that will eventually be placed around the Waikoloa community. During the session, people grabbed delicious, organic Thai food, smoothies, and gelato from Lotus Cafe, who had set up a tent for the event. The event concluded with short talks by Jen Lawson of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, who explained the importance of restoring the native dry forest, and the Waikoloa CERT team, who ran through evacuation protocols and routes.

On behalf of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and State Farm® Insurance, we received a $500 funding award for the event. The contest for the award was extremely competitive, spanning over 25 states - only 20 out of 84 projects were selected. This was a testament to how much progress has been made in adding Hawaii's wildfire issues to the national radar screen and how much more integrated Hawaii is in nationwide and Pacific-wide wildfire mitigation efforts.

We'd like to send out a special thank you to NFPA and State Farm®, Lotus Cafe, our dedicated partners, and the enthusiastic community members who made Wildfire Preparedness Day a wonderful success! Mahalo!

Another thanks to West Hawaii Today for covering the event on the front page of the Sunday paper!

Read the article:

Banner photo: Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative's Future Foresters, Waikoloa CERT, Malama Kai Foundation's Ocean Warriors, and Hawaii Fire Department team up with HWMO for the event.

Waikoloa Garden Community Work Morning

Sparked by enthusiastic, willing-to-work community members from Waikoloa Village, we held a work morning at our Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park at the end of Melia Pl. The most recent rain events have spurred our native plants to run wild and even blossom, creating a dynamic ecosystem that mirrors that of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Preserve. Native plants such as 'Ihi, 'Ilima papa, 'Ulei, and Pohinahina are in full bloom and are definitely worth checking out. These native, drought-tolerant plants are not only worth planting for their beauty, but can also provide a living fuelbreak around your home.

Where and when there is rain, however, there is other not so desirable growth. Community members have taken note of recent weedy arrivals and asked if they could help remove them. We could always use the help and gladly responded by holding a Community Work Morning. Our team of volunteers received some pointers on which weeds to pull out, as some of the "weeds" were actually native to Hawaii. During such hard work, we were all still able to share stories about wildfires experienced in Hawaii and the mainland. 

Monte Anglin, one of the volunteers and a resident near the garden explained what the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park means to him: 

“It is really great to see some native plants and growth be developed and maintained anywhere in the state, but especially here in the dry area of Waikoloa. It’s just amazing. And the people that did the concept and tore out the old, messy, ugly stuff that was here a couple of years ago really need to be commended for the foresight and the energy to come forth and do this. I really appreciate it.”

Banner photo: Tom Loomis, HWMO Garden Manager (Left) and Pablo Beimler, HWMO Education & Outreach Coordinator (Right) pose with Waikoloa Village volunteers after a hard morning's work.

Waikoloa School Garden Day 2012

HWMO hosted a fire education day at our Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park. Fourth graders from Waikoloa School walked to the garden for a day of educational games, scavenger hunts, and lectures. HWMO’s Tom Loomis coordinated the day’s lesson plans, which the kids had a blast with!

Banner photo: Students and teachers flock to the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park to learn about Firewise gardening.

Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park Opening Ceremony

Here at HWMO we have been working tirelessly to complete our garden, designed especially for educating the community about how to landscape around their homes to prevent damage from wildfires. The opening was a huge success, bringing in an array of community members and government officials.

Banner photo: Attendees join Danny Akaka for the garden's blessing.