Firefighter Chili Cook-Off for Wildfire Prevention

Wildfires have serious impacts on communities and natural resources from summit to sea. HWMO is filling an important niche in Hawaii by bringing together a wide variety of communities and collaborators to reduce wildfire impacts across the State of Hawaii and in the Western Pacific. In order to keep our flame alive, we rely on donations like any other 501(c)3 non-profit organization. That's why on August 26, we held our first major fundraiser: Firefighter Chili Cook-Off for Wildfire Prevention (which also made the front page of West Hawaii Today on August 28!)

A beautiful day under blue skies, and later under the stars.

A beautiful day under blue skies, and later under the stars.

The event attracted people from all over the islands (and some from the mainland, as well) -- over 200 people came to taste chili and have a good time. Parker Ranch was gracious enough to provide a beautiful venue, a historic red barn behind the Rodeo Arena, and lend equipment and volunteers. They also showcased their camouflage brush truck, which the kids had a blast exploring.

Five firefighter teams were on hand to dish it out (quite literally) in a chili cooking competition. The teams were as follows:

1) Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) Admin: Chief Ren Victorino and Chief Glen Honda
2) HFD Ladder 14: Christian and Maddy Cook; Kilipaki and Angela Kanae
3) HFD BC2Chili: John and Katy Whitman; Bethany Stimac
4) Big Island Wildfire Coordinating Group (BIWCG): Chief Gantry Andrade and Jack Minassian
5) Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA): Chief Eric Moller; Kimo and Annie Yamanoha; Cory Prough, Hunter Rapoza

Big Island Wildfire Coordinating Group serving their dish.

Big Island Wildfire Coordinating Group serving their dish.

HFD Ladder 14 went all out with their smoky decor.

HFD Ladder 14 went all out with their smoky decor.

Each team cooked their own chili recipes using as many local ingredients as possible. Kahua Ranch, Ponoholo Ranch, and Robby Hind were generous enough to donate meat for the firefighters. With wide grins and flame-filled decorated service stations, the firefighters served the chili to attendees, hoping to win their votes later in the evening. But first, it was up to the legendary chef, Sam Choy, to determine the best chili of the night. The winner? Drum roll...HFD Admin! Their dish won over Sam Choy's taste buds as it was, in his words, the best representation of Hawaiian-style chili (and it was also very delicious). The crowd agreed, too, as they chose the same chili for the People's Choice Award. This is not to say that all of the teams aren't winners in our book -- they all dedicated so much volunteer time to make this event happen and kept our visitors delighted and satiated with their delicious chilis. 

Firefighter Chili Cook-Off for Wildfire Prevention_8_26_17_27_Winners of the Best Chili Chefs Choice Award- Chiefs Glen Honda and Ren Victorino copy.JPG

We also had delectable dishes donated by various food sponsors: vegetarian chili from Tommy Bahamas, rice and sheet cake from KTA, mac salad from Lilikoi Cafe, and cornbread from Mamane Bakery. Spicy Ninja Sauce donated an array of hot sauces at the condiment bar. Beer was donated by Big Island Brewhaus and Kona Brewery, juice was donated by Hemp2o, and coffee was donated by Waimea Coffee Company. 

Attendees trying the different chilis including Senator Lorraine Inouye (middle, blue).

Attendees trying the different chilis including Senator Lorraine Inouye (middle, blue).

David Tarnas showcasing all of the different chili entries.

David Tarnas showcasing all of the different chili entries.

Miles Nakahara recognized for his years of service to the islands and the organization.

Miles Nakahara recognized for his years of service to the islands and the organization.

Throughout the night, serenading live tunes were performed by Donald Goddard and Widdy Loo, and Jonathan Brooke (of the Pau Hana Pickers) and Richard Griffin. During one of the intermissions, HWMO held a special ceremony for all of the new Firewise Communities, three of which showed up in full force that night: Kanehoa, Waikoloa Village, and Honokoa (Waialea and Puako were also honored, but unfortunately, Firewise Committee members were unable to attend). Kohala Waterfront also came out in numbers -- they are on pace to be certified by the end of the year!

Councilman Tim Richards and Senator Lorraine Inouye were also on hand to speak about the importance of wildfire prevention and HWMO's work. We also held a special ceremony for Miles Nakahara who was instrumental in the founding of HWMO and its continued success in the early years. 

The event was a smashing success and we were able to raise at least $20,000 to help continue our work to protect communities, lands, and waters from wildfire in Hawaii. Of course, it couldnʻt have happened without everyone who joined us and all who put in so much time and effort into organizing and volunteering. And a big mahalo goes out to all of the sponsors involved. These are all the people, businesses, and organizations that made it happen - mahalo nui loa!:

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FINAL Program 2017 Firefighter Chili Cook-Off_Page_1.jpg
Firefighter Chili Cook-Off for Wildfire Prevention 8/27/17

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

Kanehoa Wildfire Prep Day Firewise Event

As part of a nationwide effort, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO) is working with its partners statewide to launch Wildfire Preparedness Month for the month of May. On May 7th, National Community Wildfire Preparedness Day, communities across the U.S. held action days to prepare their neighborhoods for wildfire. 

Kanehoa subdivision, located off of Kawaihae Road halfway between Kawaihae and Waimea, held a community-wide Wildfire Preparedness Day event on the morning of May 7th. Two dozen community members joined the Wildfire Preparedness Day efforts in Kanehoa to remove enough haole koa (or ekoa) to fill-to-the-brim an entire large dumpster within a few hours. Ekoa is known to be an extreme fire hazard due to its high flammability and potential to create embers that can spot additional fires or ignite homes from miles away. 

The community members broke off into teams and removed ekoa from the sides of the roads within the subdivision, greatly reducing the wildfire threat by ensuring the roads can act as a fuelbreak to slow the spread of wildfire. 

Before ekoa removal on roadside.

After ekoa removal on roadside.

The idea for the event sprouted from a Firewise Community Hazard Assessment that HWMO and its partners from Hawaii Fire Department conducted for the subdivision as part of a Firewise certification effort for the community. 

Throughout 2015, HWMO worked closely with Kanehoa to assist them in their effort to become a nationally-recognized Firewise Community. Residents in Kanehoa put in countless volunteer hours and dollar match to ensure their homes’ ignition risk was reduced. As a result of their hard work, Kanehoa became the second Firewise Community in the State of Hawaii. HWMO held a brief ceremony at the end of the May 7th work day to officially recognize the community for its significant achievement towards wildfire readiness. 

Team photo of Kanehoa Firewise volunteers who made Wildfire Prep Day a great success.

All of us at Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization are very proud of the work the Kanehoa community has contributed towards reducing the wildfire threat in their area and we hope more communities will follow their lead. You can be a part of an amazing movement on any given day by gathering your family, friends, and neighbors for preparedness activities that range from evacuation planning to flammable vegetation removal. 

Kanehoa Wildfire Prep Day Firewise Event 2016

Wildland-Urban Interface Conference and RSG Award Ceremony 2016

Every year, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) holds the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI) Conference at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada. 

The conference was a great space for sharing lessons learned with people from all over the world.

Pablo Beimler, HWMO's Community Outreach Coordinator, ventured out to Reno for the week of March 6th, to attend the conference. Hundreds of people from various U.S. states and countries, representing every level of private and public sectors joined together for the exciting and valuable event. 

For the first two days of the conference, Mr. Beimler attended the Hazard Ignition Zone Training hosted by NFPA and taught by long-time HIZ expert Pat Durland. The training gave an in-depth look at how fire interacts with landscapes and structures at the individual home level. A number of great discussions emerged during the training that gave fresh new ways to look at fire issues around the home. Trainees worked in groups towards the end of the training to conduct mock home assessments, sharing lessons learned from back home.

During the rest of the conference, which occurred on March 8th through March 10th, Mr. Beimler networked with a number of people to discuss lessons learned and to promote HWMO's work. Most notably, Mr. Beimler worked with Crystal Beckman, a Fire Information and Education specialist from Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation, to build on a working group they had helped start at the 2015 event. They were able to pull in a number of other outreach specialists from around the states to create a group that would continue to share resources throughout the year and into the future. 

Pablo Beimler shares HWMO's Ready Set Go! Leadership Award with Hawaii FD's (from left to right) Chief Gantry Andrade, Chief Darren Rosario, Captain Bill Bergin, and BC Jerry Lum.

Pablo Beimler (left) representing HWMO poses with other winners of the RSG! Awards: Aubrey FD, Flower Mound FD, and Austin FD.

The highlight of the conference for HWMO was the Fire Adapted Communities Reception and Ready, Set, Go! Award Ceremony on the eve of March 9th. HWMO was a proud recipient of this year's RSG! Leadership Award for Career Departments. Mr. Beimler graciously accepted the award from the IAFC President and shared the honors with Hawaii Fire Department representatives who were in attendance: Chief Darren Rosario, Assistant Chief Gantry Andrade, Captain Bill Bergin, and BC Jerry Lum. We could not be happier to be a recipient of the award and what better way to share it than with our long-time partners who have been so supportive of our RSG! outreach effort

Waimea Youth Wildfire Prep Team

In August of this year, a 4,000-plus acre wildfire threatened a number of homes and businesses in the Kawaihae area. Nearly a week later, heavy rainfall swept the exposed, loose, post-fire soil and debris through stream channels and roads, creating flash flood conditions that caused further evacuations. The clear connection between wildfires, flooding, and smothering of coral reefs during the event led us to create a YouTube video titled: Kawaihae Fire and Flood - Mauka to Makai Impacts

Although the current El Niño brought Hawaii a wet summer, very dry conditions are forecasted this winter. Drought during past El Niños has led to some of Hawaii’s largest wildfires on both windward and leeward sides. The next Kawaihae fire could be right around the corner.

Youth Wildfire Prep Team from Waimea Middle School. From left to right: Zakahry Murakami-Mattos, Jamin-Quinn Lee Rillanos, Zariah River, Kawehi Bell-Kaopuiki. 

With the recent wildfires and El Niño predictions in mind, HWMO assembled a group of five enthusiastic students from Waimea Middle School who were eager to complete a community wildfire prevention or preparedness project. Kyren Martins, Zakahry Murakami-Mattos, Kawehi Bell-Kaopuiki, Zariah Rivera, and Jamin-Quinn Lee Rillanos joined the Youth Wildfire Prep Team in November, working on projects they developed and executed on their own. Mr. Martins and Mr. Rillanos each created their own wildfire prevention signs; Mr. Murakami-Mattos is currently creating a “good versus bad defensible space” video; and Ms. Bell-Kaopuiki and Ms. Rivera teamed up to remove flammable plant debris from the Mālaʻai Culinary Garden. 

The action team was originally inspired by a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) national call to action for youth from ages 13 to 22. Students from around the country were urged to implement their own wildfire prevention or preparedness project between September 1st and November 15th with the chance of being selected as a $500 “TakeAction” community service funding award recipient.

Kyren Martins, one of ten national TakeAction community service funding award recipients. 

HWMO is pleased to announce that Mr. Martins was selected as one of ten national recipients. Mr. Martins, whose family was directly affected by the Kawaihae fire and subsequent floods in August, made and installed a wildfire prevention sign at the edge of his home, which is visible from the road. Kyren’s message about preventing cigarette ignitions alongside the road will certainly have an impact considering a number of people drive by their home everyday. Mr Martins has elected to use the reward for future educational costs.

Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization thanks the Youth Wildfire Prep Team for their enthusiasm, hard work, and overall commitment to helping protect their community from the growing threat of wildfire. HWMO also congratulates Mr. Martins for receiving the national award. We plan to work with other students throughout the state on similar projects, using Waimea’s Prep Team as a model for future collaborations.

Malaai Garden Take Action Campaign Recruitment

Pablo Beimler explains what it takes to apply for a Take Action funding award.

Healthy food, healthy living, community service - all words that come to mind when one mentions Malaai Culinary Garden. The student garden, "a one acre organic garden grown by and for" students at Waimea Middle School, hosted HWMO Education and Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, for its morning classes on November 10th. Pablo, who also is a volunteer at Malaai, came to speak to the students about an exciting community service opportunity. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released an award contest for young adults (ages 13-22) who were willing to start and complete a neighborhood project to prevent or reduce wildfire threats in the area. Students could work on a number of projects and once they completed it, they could enter the 2015 Take Action contest for a chance to be a recipient of a $500 funding award. The award could be used for future education costs, or as a donation to their favorite charitable organization.

Five students took particular interest and sat down with Pablo to discuss ideas for projects in their neighborhood. One student, for example, decided to make a fire prevention sign that he could post next to his home, which is situated next to the busy Kawaihae Road. Other student ideas included making a "good v. bad defensible space" video and clearing fuels around Malaai Garden. It was great to see students who were enthusiastic about making a difference in their community and we only hope to grow this enthusiasm with future student events. 

Stay tuned for updates on the student projects!

Poetry Slam (Featuring Kaleo the Pueo)

Kaleo the Pueo continued to break through the media circuit, this time through a unique blend of the arts and wildfire prevention. Our new wildfire prevention mascot could be spotted all across the island in a beautiful flyer put together by Poetic Connect's Cassandra Wagner and Josh Horan. Kaleo was front-and-center on the flyer, showcasing his colorful, fiery wings in front of a microphone, holding water in one wing and fire in the other. Poetic Connect is "a movement to promote the performance and creation of poetry while cultivating literary activities and spoken word events." If you want to get a better sense of what they're about, there are a number of videos from their island-wide poetry slams, some of which include HWMO's very own Education & Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler. 

The flyer that helped make Kaleo the Pueo famous!

On April 25th, HWMO co-sponsored the latest poetry slam, which took place at the "Green Church" in Waimea. Dozens of poets and supporters took part in the performances. Many stopped by our outreach table to learn more about wildfire prevention and what Kaleo the Pueo was all about. The Fourth Place runner-up even received a free Kaleo the Pueo t-shirt and hat! 

Big mahalo to Poetic Connect for their amazing support for our efforts and for getting Kaleo the Pueo's name out to the public!

Wildland-Urban Interface Conference 2015

This year's conference spanned three days at the Peppermill Resort in Reno, Nevada. The venue played host to a wide-range of people involved in the wildfire community: fire chiefs, outreach coordinators, agency directors, community action group organizers, you name it! 

After an unfortunate plane cancellation and rescheduling, Pablo Beimler was still able to fly from Hawaii Island to Reno to represent Hawaii Wildfire at the conference. Mr. Beimler shared an exhibition booth with the Great Plains Fire Science Exchange ( to showcase HWMO's work and our new wildfire prevention mascot: Kaleo the Pueo. 

On the second day of the conference, a very special ceremony was held to commemorate this year's Wildfire Mitigation Award winners. The awards were chosen and presented by the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), the National Association of State Foresters (NASF), the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) and the USDA Forest Service (USFS). 

Lo and behold, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization was one of the recipients for the Wildfire Mitigation Innovation Award! Mr. Beimler joined the stage to accept the award on behalf of HWMO, an exciting moment for our whole organization. We couldn't of done it without the great support of our incredible staff, Board members, Technical Advisory Committee, community members and partners!

To round off the conference, Andrew Phelps of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, gave a unique presentation about how the key principles of improv acting can apply to emergency management. He even called upon some volunteers to help act it out! 

For a more in-depth read about the conference, check out this article:


Banner photo: The Wildfire Mitigation Awards, one of which was awarded to Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization

Above: Pablo Beimler accepts the Wildfire Mitigation Innovation Award on behalf of Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization.

3rd Annual HWMO All-Partner Meeting

All of our projects are collaboratively-based. This has been the key to our success, as it has made our projects grounded, relevant, and truly effective.  As a way to honor these incredible partnerships and to keep each other up-to-date about the latest happenings among wildfire professionals in Hawaii, we held our 3rd Annual All-Partner Meeting at the Pohakuloa Training Area off of Saddle Road.
The November 20th event followed the Big Island Wildfire Coordinating Group's (BIWCG) final meeting of the year. New officers for BIWCG were elected, including President (Assistant Chief Gantry Andrade, HFD), Vice President (Jay Hatayama, DOFAW), and Secretary (Elizabeth Pickett, HWMO) to ring in the new year. After the conclusion of the meeting, BIWCG members joined HWMO’s other partners for a delicious plate lunch made with fresh, mostly local ingredients by the staff of HWMO.  
The HWMO All-Partner Meeting commenced with a roundtable meet-and-greet where partners introduced themselves to the group and shared updates from their agency or organization. HWMO's Elizabeth Pickett then shared a presentation recapping HWMO's successful year of achieving its 3 major objectives: Creating a Solid and Sustainable Organization; Increasing Awareness and Understanding of the Wildfire Issue; and Providing Technical Assistance. Midway through the presentation, Education and Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, provided a brief recap on the many successful outreach events HWMO held and participated in this year. Following the HWMO presentation, DOFAW's Wayne Ching, who is retiring at the end of this year, gave a brief speech about DOFAW's wildfire-related efforts and the vision for the agency's future. Shortly thereafter, Elizabeth Pickett gave a presentation put together by Dr. Clay Trauernicht that highlighted his recent research on the severity of the wildfire issue in Hawaii.
To conclude this year’s All-Partner Meeting, HWMO presented the first ever Partner of the Year Award to long-time partner and integral member of the Hawaii wildfire community, Mr. Wayne Ching, for his countless years of help and expertise. We couldn't have made it this far without him! In fact, we wouldn't be the successful and effective organization we have become without all of our partners. We extend a heartfelt thank you to all of you who have helped HWMO grow and blossom over the years.  We hope to see you and many more at next year’s meeting. Mahalo!

Banner photo: Partner of the Year, Wayne Ching (DOFAW) presents to around 25 of our partners.

Wildfire Preparedness Day - Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park 2014

May 3rd was the first ever National Wildfire Preparedness Day! Communities from across the nation rallied to hold events to help raise wildfire awareness, promote collaboration and bring neighbors together to work on projects that protect homes, neighborhoods and entire communities.

HWMO organized a day of fire preparedness fun and festivities at the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park in Waikoloa Village on Melia Street. HWMO partnered with Hawaii Fire Department, Waikoloa Community Association, Waikoloa Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, and Malama Kai Foundation to put on the event. 

As part of our prevention efforts, we created the first and only fire preparedness demonstration garden in Hawaii. The Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park demonstrates how to reduce the impacts of wildfires through defensible space, Firewise landscaping and fire resistant building materials. This garden is primarily made up of low-maintenance, native Hawaiian species that are resistant to drought, wind, and heat. The garden also exhibits Firewise principles including various landscaping techniques and maintenance guidelines for zones around the home: 10 ft., 30 ft., and 100+ ft. 

The event kicked off with a garden tour led by an Ocean Warriors student, followed by opening speeches from Hawaii Fire Department's Chief Darren Rosario, HWMO's Vice President Sam Patten, and HWMO's Executive Director Elizabeth Pickett. The crowd continued to grow as the opening ceremony progressed as more families arrived. To add to the excitement, Hawaii Fire Department's firefighters arrived in an ambulance and fire truck, segueing into the next activity: tours of the apparatuses. A dozen or so keiki met with firefighters to learn about the ins-and-outs of being a firefighter and the cool tools and devices they get to use. There were waves of smiles from the keiki, who were brimming from the excitement of such a unique opportunity to connect with the firefighting community. 

Following the firefighter meet-and-greet, the crowd gathered in the garden and began to plant the 230+ native dryland plants (including 'ihi, pohinahina, and 'ilima papa) that HWMO hauled in for the event. With the incredible help from our community members, we were able to plant each and every start in the garden - 230+ plants in under two hours of planting! 

After the plantings, the crowd moved under the tents for a craft event - Ocean Warriors, Future Foresters, and other keiki helpers designed and painted signs with wildfire prevention messages that will eventually be placed around the Waikoloa community. During the session, people grabbed delicious, organic Thai food, smoothies, and gelato from Lotus Cafe, who had set up a tent for the event. The event concluded with short talks by Jen Lawson of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, who explained the importance of restoring the native dry forest, and the Waikoloa CERT team, who ran through evacuation protocols and routes.

On behalf of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and State Farm® Insurance, we received a $500 funding award for the event. The contest for the award was extremely competitive, spanning over 25 states - only 20 out of 84 projects were selected. This was a testament to how much progress has been made in adding Hawaii's wildfire issues to the national radar screen and how much more integrated Hawaii is in nationwide and Pacific-wide wildfire mitigation efforts.

We'd like to send out a special thank you to NFPA and State Farm®, Lotus Cafe, our dedicated partners, and the enthusiastic community members who made Wildfire Preparedness Day a wonderful success! Mahalo!

Another thanks to West Hawaii Today for covering the event on the front page of the Sunday paper!

Read the article: 

Banner photo: Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative's Future Foresters, Waikoloa CERT, Malama Kai Foundation's Ocean Warriors, and Hawaii Fire Department team up with HWMO for the event.