Fire Adapted Communities

Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network Annual Workshop - Ashland, OR

FAC Net Annual Workshop participants representing areas across the U.S. Credit: FAC Net

FAC Net Annual Workshop participants representing areas across the U.S. Credit: FAC Net

What a week we had in Ashland, Oregon (April 22 to 25) thanks to the amazing staff from Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, a wildfire resiliency learning network. HWMO is now officially a Core Member of FAC Net on behalf of our amazing partners across Hawaii and the Western Pacific. FAC Net members from Ashland welcomed us with open arms as they hosted this year’s annual workshop and showcased the inspiring multi-partner work they were doing to protect community and natural areas.

We hiked, we ate, we shared, we listened, we got out of our comfort zones, all of this together with a group of inspiring people from across the U.S. doing the important work to create a more wildfire-resilient future. We were sad to leave our new and old friends but very energized to come back to Hawaii and continue the critical work HWMO is doing to make Hawaii safer from wildfires

On a captivating and education field tour of Lithia Park where a combination of methods to reduce wildfire hazards including prescribed fire are being used to restore the watershed.

On a captivating and education field tour of Lithia Park where a combination of methods to reduce wildfire hazards including prescribed fire are being used to restore the watershed.

Hearing stories about residents teaming up with the Ashland Fire Department and local contractors to create a Firewise Community.

Hearing stories about residents teaming up with the Ashland Fire Department and local contractors to create a Firewise Community.

Just like in Hawaii, there are Firewise Communities all over Ashland. Here’s our Executive Director, Elizabeth Pickett, pointing one out.

Just like in Hawaii, there are Firewise Communities all over Ashland. Here’s our Executive Director, Elizabeth Pickett, pointing one out.

We were treated to some amazing food throughout the week — and most importantly, ate meals with awesome people!

We were treated to some amazing food throughout the week — and most importantly, ate meals with awesome people!

A reflection poem from Pablo, HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator:

It was a truly inspiring and motivating week in Ashland, 
hearing from locals and their sobering stories about 
the realities of a vastly changing climate, 
of summers that so smoky kids stay indoors for weeks on end, 
of people packing their bags and leaving 
because their lungs cannot inhale particulate pollution.

I was able to join a community of connectors from across the U.S., 
of people in the wildland fire field who are taking measures 
in their areas to scrap status quo and think outside of the box, 
to topple silos and bridge groups who've never sat at tables together.

The immense wildfire situation we face requires everyone 
and requires solutions both new and revived, 
where traditional knowledge centuries in the making intertwines 
with the creative capacity we all have to adapt and innovate.

It takes us all to create fire-adapted communities.

Waimea Middle School Career Exploration Day

Testing “Fire Adapted Community” bridges with a heavy bucket of wildfire rocks.

Testing “Fire Adapted Community” bridges with a heavy bucket of wildfire rocks.

There are many careers out there that can have a positive impact on reducing wildfire risk, from teachers to planners to farmers and everything in between. That was the theme of our day on October 24th as we visited Waimea Middle School as one of the presenters for this year’s Career Exploration Day. To get this message across with the students we met with, we played a “Build a Fire Adapted Community” game. Students answered questions on wildfire impacts on our watershed model. With each correct answer, they were given metal clips which they would creatively use to piece together popsicle sticks that have various features of a Fire Adapted Community written on them. The test: to build a strong bridge of community connection that could withstand a bucket full of heavy rocks! We were impressed by the innovative linkages the students made and many of the bridges withstood the heavy brunt of rocks (symbolizing a wildfire).

So many future leaders and community connectors on the horizon!

Waikii Ranch Firewise Hazard Training and BBQ

Community members from all over Waikii Ranch participated in the community's first Firewise Day on September 23, 2017.

Community members from all over Waikii Ranch participated in the community's first Firewise Day on September 23, 2017.

Waikii Ranch, which is surrounded by fire-prone grasslands on all sides, is a community near Waimea that is well on its way to being one of the next nationally-recognized Firewise Communities as of 2017. They took another major step on September 23 by hosting a Firewise Hazard Training and BBQ, which qualified as their annual Firewise Day. Over 25 community members joined in to listen to presentations from HWMO and our partners from Hawaii Fire Department, U.S. Army-Garrison Fire and Emergency Services, and DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. HWMO’s Pablo Beimler gave a presentation on wildfire impacts, background on wildfire preparedness programs (Ready, Set, Go! and Wildfire Lookout!), and a brief intro to the Firewise Communities Recognition Program.

From left to right: Gary Grisham (Waikii Ranch Firewise Committee), Jacob Witcraft (DLNR DOFAW), Pablo Beimler (HWMO), Chief Eric Moller (US Army-Garrison, FES), and Captain Bill Bergin (HFD). Photo credit: Lynn Scully.

From left to right: Gary Grisham (Waikii Ranch Firewise Committee), Jacob Witcraft (DLNR DOFAW), Pablo Beimler (HWMO), Chief Eric Moller (US Army-Garrison, FES), and Captain Bill Bergin (HFD). Photo credit: Lynn Scully.

U.S. Army’s Chief Eric Moller spoke thereafter with the main message being that by becoming a Firewise Community, residents were taking an important step towards protecting themselves as well as the lives and safety of first responders. Captain Bill Bergin from HFD followed with several Firewise tips and background on some of the fire issues and history in Waikii. Jacob from DOFAW’s State Tree Nursery also spoke about the importance of creating defensible space and recommended the community plant more native trees and understory to reduce wildfire risk. To wrap up the presentations, a resident of Puu Kapu who lost her home in a recent brushfire gave a first-hand account of her harrowing experience evacuating the fire. She stressed the importance of planning ahead and it was a truly courageous thing for her to share her story in front of so many people.

After the speakers shared their thoughts, a member of the Waikii Ranch HOA put on a Firewise video outlining tips on Firewise landscaping and home fire-proofing. 

The event concluded with a BBQ where fire officials mingled with community members and enjoyed delicious grindz. Thank you Waikii Ranch HOA for hosting all of us and being a part of the growing Firewise movement in Hawaii.

Waikii Ranch Firewise Hazards Training and BBQ 9/23/17

Launiupoko Firewise Certification Celebration

Launiupoko, just south of Lahaina on Maui, had a busy fire season last year (even a couple fires burned within the subdivision for the first time). A group of residents responded by forming a Firewise Committee and taking the necessary steps towards Firewise certification. As of 2016, the community is now an official Firewise Community, the first in Western Maui. 

Launiuopoko became a Firewise Community as of 2016 and is sporting their certification proudly on their main road.

Launiuopoko became a Firewise Community as of 2016 and is sporting their certification proudly on their main road.

This accomplishment was celebrated on May 15th at the home of one of the Firewise Committee members. HWMO’s Pablo Beimler was invited to join and to hold the floor for a speech. Committee members and their neighbors made up a group of 16 or so at the celebration. Pablo thanked the community for its hard work and reminded them that this was only the beginning of a long journey towards becoming a Fire Adapted Community, one in which ALL local stakeholders share responsibility in the wildfire solution. The community is off to a great start and although they are presented with some monumental challenges, they continue to be persistent and enthusiastic in their efforts. Truly inspiring.

Wildland Urban Interface Conference 2017

Conference talks ranged from a variety of topics - there was something for everyone this year.

Conference talks ranged from a variety of topics - there was something for everyone this year.

Each year, wildfire professionals from across the nation and even from other countries gather in Reno for the Wildland Urban Interface Conference sponsored by the International Association of Fire Chiefs. HWMO and its partners from Hawaii Fire Department and Guam Department of Agriculture Forestry and Soil Resources Division were represented at this year’s event from March 19-23. HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, spent several days in Nevada with the snowy slopes of Lake Tahoe punctuating the landscape. The Peppermill Resort played host to the event where several hundred firefighters, outreach specialists, scientists, planners, conservationists, insurance professionals, and others with a stake in wildfire protection gathered. During the first two days, Pablo took part in a workshop held by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security FEMA National Fire Academy. The workshop covered various strategies for developing Fire Adapted Communities, including many that HWMO has been implementing in Hawaii. A major theme throughout the workshop and the rest of the conference was the need for “shared responsibility” to tackle wildfire issues. It indeed takes a village — all stakeholders must play a role in wildfire protection. 

Forging new nationwide partners through Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network fun and games. 

Forging new nationwide partners through Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network fun and games. 

Cooperation earns FAC Learning Network the grand prize.

Cooperation earns FAC Learning Network the grand prize.

Simtable demonstration simulating fires and evacuation procedures.

Simtable demonstration simulating fires and evacuation procedures.

The conference itself was filled with amazing networking opportunities and speakers. The Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network staff invited outreach and prevention specialists from across the nation to take part in various activities and get-togethers forging new partnerships and learning opportunities. HWMO is now connected to specialists from California to Colorado to Montana to Idaho to New Mexico to the East Coast…the list goes on! It was not all business — there were fun and games…literally. Many of the learning network members hit the arcades on the first night and, as a collaborative effort, won enough tickets for the grand prize: a new tiger mascot for the group!

Presentations and workshops covered a wide array of topics: Fire Adapted Communities, Fire Learning Exchanges, SimTable demonstrations, Fire Operations in the Swamp, a Presidential Transition and What it Means to the Wildland Fire Community, and more. Lessons learned from the Fort McMurray and Blue Cut fires were shared by those who led suppression efforts during the harrowing experiences. WUI 2017 was an incredible event and HWMO is extremely grateful for being a part of it this year. We thank IAFC for the opportunity to be ambassadors for this year’s conference.

Wildland Urban Interface Conference 2017

Waimea Middle School Career Day

When it comes to solving our sometimes daunting wildfire issues, we need a whole collective of individuals and groups from a wide spectrum of disciplines and backgrounds. On Wednesday, February 15, HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, shared this important lesson with Waimea Middle School students at Career Day. To get the message across, Pablo tapped into the creative and artistic minds of the students. 

Emoji created to express sorrow over a wildfire-ravaged island.

After starting with a viewing of the Prevent Wildfires to Protect Our Ocean YouTube video produced by HWMO, Pablo had the students draw their ideal Big Island complete with healthy watersheds and thriving communities. Each student was then asked to create an emoji that best expressed how the island scene made them feel. 

Then, it was time to introduce wildfire to the picture. The students were asked what impacts a wildfire could have on the island. With each impact, whether it was smoke, burnt forests, polluted waterways, or damaged powerlines, the students wreaked havoc on their island by drawing fiery scribbles over the resources affected. By the end of the exercise, their islands had gone through a rough time. The students then developed new emojis to express how they felt about their new island scene. 

Adding ideas for people/careers that can contribute to a Fire Adapted Community.

To wrap it up, Pablo had each of the students write or draw two types of people or activities on Post-it notes that could help create a Fire Adapted Community. A whole range of amazing, creative ideas were developed, including having politicians, celebrities, family members, scientists, botanists, and gardeners be a part of the big picture. Each student was asked to place their Post-it note on a poster of an island scene to demonstrate that it will take all of us to keep this waʻa afloat. 

Waimea Middle School Career Day 2/15/17