On April 1, 2019, HWMO flew to Molokaʻi, past the stunning cliffs of the North Shore, for a Firewise community hazard assessment of Paniolo Hale on the West End.
Paniolo Hale is an 8.75-acre condominium complex consisting of 21 buildings that include 76 dwelling units and a main office. Approximately 140 people live there, but nearly all are part-time residents (only about a half-dozen or so are full-time residents). Each unit is privately owned and ranges from studios to one or two-bedroom units. There is a resident manager and landscaping manager on-site. The condos are located in Kaluakoi in West Molokaʻi as part of a larger cluster of resort-style homes and vacation rentals along the scenic Kepuhi Beach (Paniolo Hale being the northern-most development in this zone).
Across the gulch from Paniolo Hale due south is the partially-abandoned Kepuhi Beach Resort. Although some of the buildings are completely abandoned, many of the buildings are used as vacation rentals. Most of the grounds’ vegetation is still maintained, but the large golf course surrounding it is no longer in use and has gone fallow since the resort officially closed over a decade ago. Another condominium complex is situated due southeast of Paniolo Hale: Ke Nani Kai.
In early 2019, HWMO was contacted by the landscaping manager of Paniolo Hale for advice on wildfire prevention opportunities for the community. HWMO informed her about Firewise Communities and after a short turnaround, the Paniolo Hale neighborhood board decided to proceed in working towards Firewise Community recognition. As a first major step, a group of proactive residents and Paniolo hale staff met with HWMO, Maui Fire Department, and State Division of Forestry and Wildlife for the Firewise hazard assessment.
The assessment team first convened at the Paniolo Hale main office to map out an itinerary for the day, determine priority community areas to examine on the field assessment, and establish boundaries for the Firewise site. Following the meeting, the group walked to several areas to gain a vantage point of the intersection between wildland and urban areas. Along with these priority areas, the team also visited several representative homes to conduct a “Home Ignition Zone” assessment to better comprehend the wildfire hazards at the individual household level and identify locally-relevant examples of best practices for creating defensible space and fire-proofing structures.
Paniolo Hale is well on pace to become the first Firewise Community on Molokaʻi by the end of 2019! Mahalo Paniolo Hale!
Banner photo: view of Paniolo Hale from Kepuhi Beach Resort