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!)
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
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.
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.
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!: