fire science

Kauai Fire Department Annual Brushfire Meeting

This past Monday, HWMO was fortunate to go to Kauai and be a part of an annual brushfire meeting held at the Kauai Fire Department Fire Prevention Bureau. This extremely educational event brought in members of the Kauai County Fire department, landowners, and businesses alike to discuss the status of wildfires on Kauai, the current risk level, and how the Kauai community could manage these risks. 

Some findings that were presented were astounding. According to Kevin Kodama, Senior Service Hydrologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2019 is already on track to be one of riskiest years yet in terms of wildfires as the dry season is already well ahead of the average drought cycle. This year has been identified as a “weak El Niño.” Rain has come down in large volumes at times, feeding the fire-prone brush that ignites very easily. These “leaky” phases of a weak El Niño do not last long and instead, long periods of dry conditions can persist, leaving many areas under “red flag” wildfire conditions (especially when winds pick up and humidity drops).

Elizabeth Pickett, Executive Director of HWMO presented our Vegetation Management Mapping Project at the meeting, as well. She did an amazing job showing the community what we have been able to create over the past few years. After working with over 200 large landowners to record different land areas, we have put together maps displaying management of wildfire fuel throughout the State of Hawaii. It was extremely beneficial to the greater community to learn about whether certain regions of vegetation are being managed, and how they are being managed to prevent wildfires. This information will also help landowners track down funding and knowledge to better manage these areas that have overgrown vegetative fuels. HWMO is proud of the fact that we are helping communities become more knowledgeable and prepared to prevent costly disasters from occurring. 

Elizabeth Pickett discussing HWMOʻs vegetative fuels mapping project

Elizabeth Pickett discussing HWMOʻs vegetative fuels mapping project

Kawika Smith from the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) also presented on the various suppression techniques they use to mitigate wildfires on over 650,000 areas of land managed by DOFAW statewide. He went into the importance and methods of protecting Hawaiian ecosystems and watersheds from disastrous wildfires. 

Kawika Smith discussing county and federal assistance with wildfire mitigation

Kawika Smith discussing county and federal assistance with wildfire mitigation

There were many other individuals and entities that made an important impact during this Annual Brushfire Meeting, and we would like to thank everyone that attended for being there. Taking part in community events like this one help to make a real difference in keeping the communities of Kauai safe, as well as protecting the fragile ecosystems and watersheds of Hawaii.  


We would also like to show our deepest gratitude to the Kauai Fire Department for using their time and energy to put on such an impactful event. The amount of good that can come out of mitigation efforts such as this can help to reduce the risk of disastrous wildfires when the whole community gets together in the name of knowledge sharing. Mahalo KFD for making this happen.  

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.

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.

Nahelehele Dry Forest Symposium 2019

Over the years, the native dryland forest ecosystems of Hawaiʻi have been severely diminished from a number of different causes, including climate change and wildfire. That’s not stopping a large collection of people working hard to preserve, protect, and restore these precious and under-appreciated forests. On March 27, Kaahahui O Ka Nahelehele, a non-profit supporting “the precious few remaining remnant dryland forest habitats,” gathered 150 people under the same roof at Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo for the 2019 Nahelehele Dryland Forest Symposium.

HWMO was invited as a speaker this year to share our exciting vegetative fuels management mapping project (many project collaborators were in the room for the talk). Addressing wildfire at the landscape-level and across-boundaries is an essential part of taking wildfire action to the next level. It’s an essential part of protecting and revitalizing the amazing native forests that are left.

What is a dryland forest symposium without some of our favorite native plant friends??

What is a dryland forest symposium without some of our favorite native plant friends??

The recent STEW-Map study shows HWMO is a top connector in Northwest Hawaii Island.

The recent STEW-Map study shows HWMO is a top connector in Northwest Hawaii Island.

Hawaii Island (Kailapa) Vegetative Fuels Management Collaborative Action Planning Workshop

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Fire follows fuel. On February 26 at the Hawaii Innovation Center in Hilo, we convened a huge group of 48 people on Hawaii Island 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). Big mahalo to the Kailapa community, a nationally recognized Firewise Community on Hawaiian Home Lands in Kawaihae, for hosting us at their beautiful new pavilion.

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.

Marking values at risk and important areas for risk reduction.

Marking values at risk and important areas for risk reduction.

Sharing ideas for next step priority actions.

Sharing ideas for next step priority actions.

Voting for priority project ideas.

Voting for priority project ideas.

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.

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.

Hawaii Island (Hilo) Vegetative Fuels Management Collaborative Action Planning Workshop

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Fire follows fuel. On February 22 at the Hawaii Innovation Center in Hilo, we convened a large group of 20 people on Hawaii Island 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.

Mayor Harry Kim sharing about the importance of fuels management for public safety.

Mayor Harry Kim sharing about the importance of fuels management for public safety.

Marking values at risk and areas for fuels treatments.

Marking values at risk and areas for fuels treatments.

Chief Eric Moller pointing out values at risk at PTA.

Chief Eric Moller pointing out values at risk at PTA.

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.

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.

Special thank you to Mayor Harry Kim, Chief Moller from US Army-Garrison, FES and Chief Okinaka from Hawaii Fire Department for joining us at the workshop.

Kauai Vegetative Fuels Management Collaborative Action Planning Workshop

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Fire follows fuel. On February 21 at the War Memorial Convention Hall in Lihue, we convened a large group of 23 people on Kauai 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.

Dr. Clay Trauernicht presenting on fuels management strategies.

Dr. Clay Trauernicht presenting on fuels management strategies.

Voting for priority project ideas.

Voting for priority project ideas.

Marking values at risk and areas for fuels treatments.

Marking values at risk and areas for fuels treatments.

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.

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.

Special thank you to Chief Kilipaki Vaughan of Kauai Fire Department, Chief Akiyama of Navy PMRF and Councilmembers Kipukai Kualiʻi and Felicia Cowden for joining us and supporting this important work.

Oahu Vegetative Fuels Management Collaborative Action Planning Workshop

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Fire follows fuel. On February 19 at the Mililani District Park, we convened a large group of 33 people on Oahu 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.

Marking values at risk and areas for fuels treatments.

Marking values at risk and areas for fuels treatments.

More identifying of key areas.

More identifying of key areas.

Voting for priority project ideas.

Voting for priority project ideas.

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.

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.

Oahu Vegetative Fuels Management Mapping Meeting with Dupont Pioneer

View of the North Shore from Dupont Pioneer in Waialua.

View of the North Shore from Dupont Pioneer in Waialua.

As a hub of wildfire protection efforts across the Hawaiian Islands, we are always looking for ways to bring people together to solve some of our most complex wicked problems. The Hawaiian Islands have been struggling with invasive species spread for decades, but now we are seeing what happens when invasive flammable plants take over the landscape and allow fires to spread more quickly and over larger areas. By controlling or managing flammable vegetation at the landscape-level, we can make great strides towards reducing the wildfire risk on our islands.

That’s why HWMO is coordinating a statewide vegetative fuels management mapping project — a rapid assessment to understand the vegetation management needs and priorities of landowners and land managers throughout the Hawaiian Islands. DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife and University of Hawaii CTAHR Cooperative Extension are key partners in the effort.

The vision for the project is that the resulting maps will lead to 1) better prioritization and communication of vegetative fuels management on the landscape-scale and 2) enhance project coordination between organizations and funding opportunities.

On December 14, we visited Dupont Pioneer in Waialua to map current and desired vegetation management activities. Activities could include any vegetation reduction or conversion projects such as roadside mowing, fuelbreaks, grazing rotations, clearing around structures or power poles, brush abatement or thinning, tree trimming, loi restoration, agriculture, and native forest restoration.

Kauai Vegetative Fuels Management Mapping Meetings

Prevent wildfires Smokey Bear sign in Waimea Canyon.

Prevent wildfires Smokey Bear sign in Waimea Canyon.

As a hub of wildfire protection efforts across the Hawaiian Islands, we are always looking for ways to bring people together to solve some of our most complex wicked problems. The Hawaiian Islands have been struggling with invasive species spread for decades, but now we are seeing what happens when invasive flammable plants take over the landscape and allow fires to spread more quickly and over larger areas. By controlling or managing flammable vegetation at the landscape-level, we can make great strides towards reducing the wildfire risk on our islands.

That’s why HWMO is coordinating a statewide vegetative fuels management mapping project — a rapid assessment to understand the vegetation management needs and priorities of landowners and land managers throughout the Hawaiian Islands. DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife and University of Hawaii CTAHR Cooperative Extension are key partners in the effort.

The vision for the project is that the resulting maps will lead to 1) better prioritization and communication of vegetative fuels management on the landscape-scale and 2) enhance project coordination between organizations and funding opportunities.

On November 20, we linked up with DOFAW and Grove Farm on Kauai for meetings to map current and desired vegetation management activities. Activities could include any vegetation reduction or conversion projects such as roadside mowing, fuelbreaks, grazing rotations, clearing around structures or power poles, brush abatement or thinning, tree trimming, loi restoration, agriculture, and native forest restoration.