Molokai Vegetative Fuels Management Collaborative Action Planning and Mapping Workshop

Marking important areas to protect on a shared map.

Marking important areas to protect on a shared map.

Fire follows fuel. On April 2 at The Nature Conservancy office in Kaunakakai, Molokai, we convened a group of 17 people representing a patchwork of different agencies, groups, and organizations across a variety of fields to come together to plan for collaborative, large-scale vegetation management to reduce wildfire risks throughout the island. This was part of a series of workshops on Oahu, Kauai, and Hawaii Island we held in February on this matter (we had a similar meeting on Maui in 2018).

During the workshop, participants:

  • Checked out the results of recent efforts to map current management of hazardous vegetative fuels (thanks to all of the information that partners contributed).

  • Identified and discussed shared regional fuels management priorities to mitigate the risks of wildfire across our island landscapes through a facilitated series of small and large group conversations.

Drawing areas in need of vegetation management.

Drawing areas in need of vegetation management.

It takes everyone!

It takes everyone!

Mapping current and desired areas for vegetative fuels management…adding to our huge statewide collaborative map.

Mapping current and desired areas for vegetative fuels management…adding to our huge statewide collaborative map.

The knowledge and priorities of the participants will contribute to planning next steps in the ongoing collaboration to manage vegetative fuels to reduce wildfire and protect our communities and natural resources.

In addition, some groups stayed after the action planning meeting to map their areas of current and desired vegetation management projects.

We are all in this together and it takes all of us!

Stay tuned via our website, social media, and e-newsletter (sign up at the bottom of this page) for final project-related products before this summer.

Mahalo DOFAW, UH CTAHR Cooperative Extension / Pacific Fire Exchange for co-organizing with us.

Paniolo Hale Firewise Community Hazard Assessment

The assessment crew pointing out vegetative hazards on the wildland-urban interface of Paniolo Hale.

The assessment crew pointing out vegetative hazards on the wildland-urban interface of Paniolo Hale.

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.

Captain Hanale Lindo of Maui Fire Department in front of roadside fuels.

Captain Hanale Lindo of Maui Fire Department in front of roadside fuels.

An abandoned golf course that once served as a wildland buffer, or greenbreak, for the community.

An abandoned golf course that once served as a wildland buffer, or greenbreak, for the community.

The assessment team taking a look at the wildland fuels.

The assessment team taking a look at the wildland fuels.

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.

The scenic Kepuhi Beach near Paniolo Hale.

The scenic Kepuhi Beach near Paniolo Hale.

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

Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018

Over the years, HWMO has come to understand that wildfire-related challenges are faced by a wide array of professionals and citizens, including more than just those focused on emergency response. HWMO, through a grant from the U.S. Forest Service, held the first ever Hawaii Wildfire Summit between April 30 and May 4 at the Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows to bring together not just fire professionals, but people working in riparian and marine conservation, cultural resource protection, the visitor industry, planning professionals, and community groups from across Hawaii, the Western Pacific, and the rest of the U.S.

Pre-Summit: NFPA Assessing Structural Ignition Potential for Wildfire Course

The first two days were dedicated to the NFPA course on Assessing Structural Ignition Potential from Wildfire. Participants included firefighters, land managers, and homeowners who learned the ins and outs of fire and its interaction with the built environment. Wildland fire expert, Pat Durland, who traveled from the mainland to teach the course, also shared valuable information on the latest research for improving the survivability of a home during a wildfire.

Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - NFPA ASIP Training
Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - Lei Making Party 5/1/18

Summit Main Event

The main event began on Wednesday, May 2, kicking off two days packed with presentations and workshops from over 40 speakers, including our two keynote speakers, Gloria Edwards of Southern Rockies Fire Science Network and Dr. Steve Quarles of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. A wealth of knowledge was shared throughout the summit by these speakers with the diverse audience. Speakers highlighted lessons learned, best practices and innovations in wildfire protection. Check out the list of speakers and their bios by clicking the buttons below.

Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - Summit Day 1 5/2/18
Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - Summit Day 2 5/3/18

HWMO emphasized the importance of using creativity and outside-the-box thinking to get out of our comfort zones, a point that keynote speaker Gloria Edwards so eloquently urged in her presentation. To spur creativity and collaborative dialogue, HWMO encouraged participants to take part in several activities during the breaks and the first evening's meet-and-greet:

* A collaborative Summit to Sea art project
* A collaborative ideas sharing space
* Casting ballots for a statewide youth wildfire prevention bookmark contest. Submissions were from students at Kamaile Academy in Waianae and Kohala and Waikoloa Schools on Hawaii Island. 


Smokin' Word

To cap off the event and to further encourage participants to use their creativity and get out of their comfort zones, we held a "Smokin' Word" open mic. Various brave volunteers, from local fire chiefs to representatives from national programs, gave spoken word performances about "why we do what we do, what we are aiming to protect, and to ignite applause and laughter." We were extremely pleased to see our colleagues dig into their creative space and shake off some nerves to share their great pieces. Professional spoken word artist (and HWMO Community Outreach Coordinator), Pablo Akira Beimler, rounded out the open mic with a performance of his poem in tribute to the summit and all of the inspiring work happening by the people in the room to make Hawaii a better, safer place to live. 

We also had a great turnout of Firewise Community members from Hawaii Island and Maui-- almost all Firewise Communities in Hawaii were represented! Firewise committee members Lisa Chu-Thielbar (Kanehoa), Gordon Firestein (Launiupoko), and Diane Makaala Kanealii (Honokoa) presented lessons learned and background about their Firewise efforts during the general session on the 2nd day. We had a Firewise gathering at the end of the 2nd day where participants played "get to know you bingo" to frantically and comically break the ice. From this point onward, HWMO is committed to forming a statewide peer learning network between all of the Firewise Communities. 

Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - Post-Summit Activities


Field Workshop

On the final day of the summit, a large group of the summit attendees hopped aboard vehicles to caravan around the South Kohala area to visualize much of what was discussed indoors at the Mauna Lani. The Pacific Fire Exchange field workshop began at the Upper Waikoloa Road Intersection to ground the participants in a sense of place and seeing a landscape-level view of the summit-to-sea watersheds of South Kohala. Then, it was on to Wai Ulaula Waimea Nature Park, where participants learned about watershed planning and about the local native forest. The following stop helped participants understand the wildfire threat that threatens the native forests and the subsequent post-fire flooding that has vastly impacted Hawaii's shorelines. What better place to talk about wildfire than in Kawaihae, where the 2014 wildfire burned thousands of acres and threatened many homes, burned millions of dollars of timber, and post-fire flooding shut down businesses and impacted the livelihoods of local residents. Representatives from Hawaii County Fire Department and National Park Service shared their lessons learned from responding to the massive fire. 

After lunch with a beautiful view of the South Kohala Coastline and a jolt from an earthquake in Kilauea, the group walked to the Puu Kohola Heiau visitor center to learn the history of the sacred site. The group then walked along a trail to learn more about the conditions that are ripe for wildfire in Kawaihae. They continued walking down to Pelekane Bay, the site of intense post-fire runoff and coral reef decay. 

The field workshop ended in Puako where Peter Hackstedde shared about the community's efforts to create a large fuelbreak behind homes and their recent Firewise Community recognition efforts. Paniau was the final stop and a nice place to wrap-up the summit to sea discussion. Some workshop participants stayed for a snorkel tour of the reef. 

Great job, Melissa Kunz, on coordinating such a smooth, exciting, and informative field workshop!

Hawaii Wildfire Summit 2018 - Field Workshop 5/4/18

Here is a thank you letter from our Executive Director, Elizabeth Pickett, to the summit participants:

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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.

Molokai CWPP Agency Meeting

In preparation of the upcoming CWPP meeting for Molokai on March 18th, Hawaii Wildfire's Elizabeth Pickett met with nineteen people from the Molokai Fire Task Force at the Kaunakakai fire station on February 18th. Representatives hailed from agencies including Maui Fire Department, Maui Police Department, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and The Nature Conservancy. 

During the meeting, an important step for creating Molokai's first Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), Ms. Pickett gave an overview of the CWPP process and asked the Task Force to aid in coordinating the March 18th community meeting details.

Many of the attendees were able to provide their own wildfire concerns and recommended actions they would like to see taken to reduce wildfire hazards on the island. 

The community meeting will take place at the halau at Kulana Oiwi on March 18th from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

Banner photo: Molokai Fire Task Force members share input on wildfire concerns and recommended actions.