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.

Kauai CWPP Update Signing

From left to right: Chief Robert Westerman, KFD, Pat Porter, DOFAW, Elton Ushio, KEMA, Elizabeth Pickett, HWMO

HWMO, Kauai Fire Department, Kauai Emergency Management Agency, and Division of Forestry and Wildlife gathered on December 23 to sign the Kauai Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) update. Now only DOFAW signatures are left before five new CWPPs in Hawaii are official! Big mahalo to all who have shared input for these plans that will open the floodgates for wildfire protection federal funding opportunities.


Maui Island CWPP Signing

A lot goes into a single document. What ends up on dozens of pages of paper is only a small part of the hard work and dedication that goes into a Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

From left to right: Lance De Silva (DLNR DOFAW), Doreen Canto (DHHL), Anna Foust (Maui CD), Elizabeth Pickett (HWMO), and Chief Jeffrey Murray (MFD).

We are thankful for everyone who has helped us develop the Upcountry and Maui CWPPs, including those who showed up to provide input at meetings and our partners who shared their expertise and knowledge about the areas. A CWPP is only as strong as the amount of dedication and thought the partnering agencies and communities put into it, so we are truly blessed for everyone’s kokua.

To cap off the CWPP process, HWMO’s Elizabeth Pickett flew to Maui to meet with Lance De Silva (DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife), Anna Foust (Maui Civil Defense), Chief Jeffrey Murray (Maui Fire Department), and Doreen Canto (Department of Hawaiian Homelands) at the Maui Fire Prevention Office in Wailuku on July 29th. Mr. De Silva, Ms. Foust, and Chief Murray acted as representatives of their agencies to sign and thus make official the completion of the Upcountry and South Maui CWPPs. 

With these plans in place, communities, organizations, and landowners/managers within Upcountry and South Maui will be able to apply for federal grant funding for wildfire-related projects. 

Special mahalo to our very own Elizabeth Pickett, who pulled many all nighters to make sure the plans were ready to go this July! Mahalos also to our GIS specialist, Orlando Smith, for making the countless maps for the plans; Pablo Beimler, for his help writing parts of the plan and helping edit; and former employee, Ilene Grossman, for her help coordinating the community meetings. 

The plans will be available on our HWMO Products page shortly. 

Maui CWPP Signing 7/29/16

Kauai Annual Brushfire Mitigation Meeting

Captain Daryl Date gives an update on KFD's latest news.

At least compared to 2015, Kauai was off to a quieter start in terms of brushfire activity. There were 69 brushfires to date (by June 9th) for 2016 compared to 122 by the same date in 2015. However, with the possibility of increased drought statewide, especially in leeward areas this summer, Kauai Fire Department and its partners are on guard for what could be a busy season. 

KFD invited HWMO, National Weather Service, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Department of Hawaiian Homelands, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and various large landowners ranging from coffee growers to seed companies to helicopter pilots to discuss wildfire preparedness and mitigation on June 9th. National Weather Service’s Derek Wroe gave a presentation on the current drought predictions. He warned that La Niña, which has a good chance of occurring by the end of the summer, doesn’t necessarily mean more rain. Typically, the tradewinds tend to be steadier during La Niña events in Hawaii, but that doesn’t necessarily mean more rainfall and could potentially intensify drought conditions

Pablo Beimler gave a presentation on behalf of HWMO on the input collected for the Kauai Community Wildfire Protection Plan update, which will be completed and signed by the end of July. He also shared information on the Wildfire & Drought Look Out! campaign, asking for partnership on the collaborative statewide effort. 

The final portion of the meeting involved a great discussion amongst all of the large landowners and agencies regarding wildfire suppression resources. Each representative let KFD know what resources they had available (access roads, water supplies, large equipment) should a wildland fire occur on their property or on adjacent lands. This type of information sharing was a great example of the collaboration needed to address the shortfall of wildfire suppression and mitigation resources on Kauai. 

Kauai Annual Brush Fire Meeting and Presentation 6/9/16

CNH Wildland Fire Conference & PFX Field Tour to Kokee

Every two to three years, Hawaii plays host to the California-Nevada-Hawaii Wildland Fire Conference. This year, the Garden Island of Kauai was the host of the conference that attracted fire experts from across the Hawaiian Islands and from California and Nevada. The three-day conference from April 12-15 at the Poipu Sheraton was a great way to share lessons learned from across the Pacific. 

Elizabeth Pickett, HWMO, shares information on Community Wildfire Protection Plan update for Kauai.

On the first day, Mayor Carvalho kicked off the proceedings with a rousing rendition of the U.S. National Anthem and Hawaii Ponoi. A number of speakers followed, touching on topics ranging from drought predictions (Derek Wroe, NWS) to local knowledge for effective fire management (Clay Trauernicht, University of Hawaii CTAHR) to native ecosystem restoration at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (Rhonda Loh, NPS). Our very own Elizabeth Pickett gave a talk on HWMO's recent statewide CWPP and public education efforts. 

Representatives from the Wildland Fallen Firefighters Foundation gave a very moving talk to share about their amazing work to support firefighters and their families who are either recovering from injury or loss of life. 

The second day of the Conference was a field tour organized by Pacific Fire Exchange's Clay Trauernicht and the newest member of the HWMO/PFX team, Melissa Kunz. Patrick Porter, District Forestry Manager for Kauai Division of Forestry and Wildlife, helped lead the caravan up to Kokee, otherwise known as Waimea Canyon.

Elizabeth Pickett shares copies of community input from CWPP meetings.

Field tour attendees soak in the beauty of Waimea Canyon.

A group of a couple dozen conference attendees stopped at various view points and the site of the large 1,000+ acre fire that scorched a eucalyptus forest a few years ago. DOFAW is taking advantage of this post-fire moment to plant rows upon rows of koa trees for sustainable harvest moving into the future. This unique project will give forest managers an idea of the feasibility of post-fire conversion of previously non-native forest into a native forest for the purpose of sustainable harvest. 

Kauai Division of Forestry and Wildlife plan to have slash piles hauled out for biomass.

New koa plantings will replace a formerly non-native forest, taking advantage of a large, destructive wildfire that wiped out acres of eucalyptus.

On the final day of the conference, Dan Dennison of DLNR spoke about the media's role in Fire Incident Management and touted the Wildfire & Drought Look Out! campaign set to be released by HWMO and its many statewide partners this month. Each County Fire Department also gave updates. The general message from each one: the number of wildfires this year in Hawaii are set to surpass last year's numbers by a significant margin. 

We want to thank our partners from DOFAW and the CNH Forest Fire Council for letting us share our recent efforts and to thank Pacific Fire Exchange for a great, informative field tour!

Stay tuned for a video of the field tour on our YouTube page!

CNH Wildland Fire Conference 2016 and PFX Field Tour to Kokee

Kauai Annual Brush Fire Mitigation Meeting & Anahola Hawaiian Homes Site Visits

Annual Brush Fire Mitigation Meeting

Since December of 2014, Kauai has had its most brush fires in the shortest span of time" in recent history, according to Captain Daryl Date, head of the Kauai Fire Department (KFD) Fire Prevention Bureau. 

Captain Daryl Date and Chief Robert Westerman show "heat map" of wildfire ignitions in Kauai since December 2014.

The numbers don't lie: 104 wildfires this year up to June 9th, the date of the Annual Brush Fire Mitigation Meeting hosted by KFD, marks a milestone that has raised concerns for residents and agencies from all over Kauai. At least 60 or so are considered "suspicious", an alarming rate that has led Kauai Police to sound the alarms for reporting any suspicious behavior.

Derek Wroe of NOAA National Weather Service explains El Niño's potential to delay the next wet season.

To help Kauai prepare for growing wildfire threats, KFD invited Kauai's largest landowners to a meeting at the Headquarters in Lihue. Captain Date began the meeting with these stark numbers and an up-to-date "heat map" showing the areas that have had the most ignitions thus far since December 2014. 

NOAA National Weather Service representative Derek Wroe followed with an insightful look at the fire weather trends. "Lihue had the driest west season in the past 30 years", just one of the many indicators pointing towards a more active fire season. In fact, leeward Kauai is now considered "abnormally dry" (40-50% below normal rainfall during the 2014-15 wet season.) "El Niño has an 80% chance of persisting into the wet season," Wroe explained, "which will delay the onset of the wet season" and thus an early start to next year's fire "season." 

With these warnings in mind, HWMO's Pablo Beimler took the meeting participants through a Wildfire Preparedness for Large Landowners/Managers presentation. Mr. Beimler illustrated the basics of fire behavior and applied them to how those factors could be minimized through strategic management practices, including fuelbreak creation and forest thinning. 

After the presentation, HWMO reps Mr. Beimler and Vice President Sam Patten distributed Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) input forms to all of the landowners/managers, with the hopes to receive their valuable input by mid-July for the Kauai update. Following the meeting, meeting participants also placed stickers of their areas of concern on a large Kauai map that will go into the plan.

Adding input to our CWPP map for Kauai.

The last segment of the meeting involved a productive discussion amongst the landowners/managers and KFD officials. Each landowner/manager shared their wildfire concerns and mentioned any resources they had that could be made available to KFD for wildfire suppression purposes.



Anahola Fuels Reduction

One of the striking themes from the Mitigation Meeting was the overwhelming consensus that Anahola be one of the targets for fuels reduction projects. Fittingly enough, Mr. Beimler and Mr. Patten traveled to Anahola after the meeting to identify and photograph wildfire hazards along the east side of the island and meet with Anahola Hawaiian Homes Community Association representatives, including Councilman Kipukai Kualii. HWMO had a fruitful discussion over saimin to start the planning process for making Pii Lani Mai Ke Kai a Firewise Community/Fire Adapted Community.

Garbage dumping - a priority wildfire concern for Anahola Hawaiian Homes residents.

Anahola has had its fair share of scares over the last few months. One of the major hazards identified was an area where abandoned cars and trash/junk were being dumped in tall dry grasses. HWMO will be working with the community to help reduce wildfire hazards. In fact, Anahola will be one of 10-16 communities over the next two years throughout the State!

Kauai CWPP Update Community Meetings

Good turnout at the Waimea meeting.

Councilman Kualii and keiki review input collected to decide which items to prioritize.

HWMO collected agency input exactly a month prior to the first of three community meetings on Kauai to update an outdated CWPP for the island. The three community meetings, held at Kilauea Elementary School, Waimea Canyon Middle School, and Elsie H. Wilcox Elementary School in Lihue, were led by HWMO’s Elizabeth Pickett and Ilene Grossman during the course of three days. Each meeting pulled about a dozen people who added their wildfire concerns, recommended actions, and priority areas of importance to the CWPP update. HWMO also made contact with Anahola Hawaiian Homes community members who wanted to take immediate action to reduce fuels in their neighborhood. HWMO will be following up with them to discuss the Firewise Communities Recognition program.

Molokai CWPP Community Meeting

After already collecting CWPP input for a new Molokai plan from agency partners from the Molokai Fire Task Force, HWMO fulfilled the other portion of the input collection process by holding a community meeting in the main town on the island, Kaunakakai. Fifteen people showed up for the meeting and HWMO also made new connections with communities that were interested in becoming Firewise Communities. Overall, great discussions and renewed community passion for taking action to protect Molokai from wildfire.

Community members discuss wildfire concerns and recommended actions to include in the plan.

Even the younger ones took part in placing stickers on their favorite priority actions.

West Oahu CWPP Agency and Community Meetings

For the first time on Oahu, a CWPP will be put together to address the growing wildfire concerns on the small, but densely-populated island. HWMO coordinated a series of meetings to collect input (the same way as all of the other CWPPs) for the West Oahu CWPP. The area has been ravaged by wildfires that have resulted in many close-calls for area residents, including a recent fire that scorched homes in Makakilo.

Counter-clockwise from top left: Kapolei/Kalaeloa, Nanakuli, Waianae, Makakilo

HWMO first met with OWIE representatives from various federal, state, and local suppression agencies to collect their input. Elizabeth Pickett and Ilene Grossman then led a total of five community meetings (on two separate trips) at the Seafarers Training Center in Kapolei, Nanaikapono Elementary School in Nanakuli, Mauka Lani Elementary School in Makakilo, and Waianae District Park (2 meetings). Each meeting attracted 10-20 people who took interest in adding their input to the plan.

South Maui CWPP - Kihei Community Meeting

The South Maui CWPP, in conjunction with HWMO’s recently completed Western Maui and current Central/Upcountry Plan, will cover most of the island with a CWPP. Although not as extensive as a plan, HWMO held a community meeting at the Kihei Community Center to collect input for the plan.

Sharing wildfire concerns and recommended actions.

Map of the area covered by the new CWPP.