HCC Palamanui Wildfire Preparedness Field Tour

Frank Sayre (HWMO Board Director - left) listens in as Mark Thorne (HWMO President-right) speaks to Calley ONeill (HCC Palamanui Landscape Designer)

Hawaii Community College's new campus in Kona, known as the Palamanui campus, will be a hub for academics on the west side of Hawaii Island. The state of the art facilities are a step into the future for Hawaii, but coming from a wildfire perspective, we want to ensure those facilities are guarded from the imminent threat of wildfire in the area. In late January, a wildfire burned near the south side of campus and threatened a number of homes there. 


HWMO President and UH CTAHR Cooperative Extension Specialist, Mark Thorne (right), gives a lesson on fountain grass.

On February 12th, HWMO Board and Staff met with HCC Palamanui officials on a wildfire preparedness field tour. HWMO's Pablo Beimler (Community Outreach Coordinator), Mark Thorne (Board President), Sam Patten (Board VP), and Frank Sayre (Board of Director) were shown around the campus by HCC Palamanui's Calley O'Neill (Landscape Planner), Marty Fletcher (Director), and Jeff Newsome (Chief of Safety and Security). 

HWMO representatives noted that the greatest threat to the campus facilities was the large swath of fountain grass that surrounded all sides of the campus. Of most concern was the seemingly endless field of fountain grass, mixed with ekoa, on the south end. We recommended a multi-mitigation, low-cost fuelbreak that would prevent fire, dust, and seed threats. 

In general, the campus is working to strive towards a landscape that fits accordingly to cultural and ecological contexts. Not only will the campus have a beautiful agricultural and restorative landscape, but it will also complement Firewise goals. We are excited to be in close partnership with the new campus and we cannot wait to see how they will transform the landscape into a sustainable, reduced fire-threat zone.