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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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FAC Net Webinar on Sustained Community Wildfire Engagement

HWMO is a proud affiliate member of the Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network where members from across the nation share their lessons learned from moving communities towards greater resilience to wildfires. On January 11, HWMO Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Akira Beimler, facilitated a panel discussion on a network-wide webinar. The panel topic was on “Sustained Community Wildfire Engagement.” HWMO and three other speaks from across the U.S. shared what has and hasn’t worked for them in terms of motivating communities towards self-sustaining wildfire risk reduction. Community engagement and self-reliance in wildfire protection can lift a remarkable weight off of agency and non-governmental groups. It takes everyone to create fire-adapted communities. 

Check out the panel discussion videos below, which were recorded and posted on YouTube by our partners from FAC Net. 

Major mahalo to FAC Net for the opportunity to lead this discussion and to our friends from FireWise of Southwest Colorado, Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation, and Project Wildfire (in Oregon) for sharing their expertise. 

Pablo Beimler from Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization talks about the role of fire in Hawaii and shares some of HWMO's successful community engagement efforts.
Charlie Landsman from Firewise of Southwest Colorado talks about their Firewise Ambassadors program and how they keep sustainable community engagement throughout Southwest Colorado.
Crystal Beckman from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation presents about some of their community wildfire engagement efforts. Crystal's talk includes information about how they work with their adult education partners to host community lecture series as well as some other community resources they have available.
Alison Green of Project Wildfire in Deschutes County, OR talks about their successful 20-year-old Firefree program as well as other community engagement efforts.



South Kohala CDP Action Committee Presentation

Pablo Beimler pointing to a map of wildfire hazards in Northwest Hawaiʻi Island during the CDP presentation. Credit - David Tarnas

Pablo Beimler pointing to a map of wildfire hazards in Northwest Hawaiʻi Island during the CDP presentation. Credit - David Tarnas

On July 24, HWMO gave a presentation at the South Kohala Community Development Plan Action Committee meeting at the Waimea Senior Center. A Community Development Plan, CDP for short, provides an opportunity for community input for establishing County policies that can then be put into action. Wildfire is featured in the South Kohala CDP, especially considering South Kohala is known for the largest brushfires in the entire state. As a reminder to why wildfire is included in the CDP, we shared to a couple dozen people, including the Action Committee, about the various fire hazards that threaten communities in South Kohala. The threats are not just vegetation and environmental conditions, but also building materials, subdivision-level hazards (such as poor access and ingress/egress), lack of water access, and not enough community engagement. 

Our presentation was preceded by a presentation from our partners from South Kohala Coastal Partnership. Julia Rose, the Marine Coordinator for SKCP, highlighted how wildfires directly impacted our nearshore resources, especially after large post-fire storm events. The Kawaihae fire was a topic of discussion during the meeting. The enormous fire in 2015 charred thousands of acres, but soon thereafter, a large storm dropped heavy rain in the area that led to dangerous flooding, shutting down roads and businesses and forcing evacuations of residents. Planning for fire is necessary to ensure events like these are prevented and we hope to see the CDP continue to integrate wildfire concerns and actions into the planning process, whether from integrating WUI codes and ordinances to finding ways to increase public participation in wildfire solutions.

HWMO's Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness

Hawaii Island Seed Bank, Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance, and Big Island Invasive Species Committee joined HWMO in setting up information booths at the event. Credit: DLNR

Hawaii Island Seed Bank, Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance, and Big Island Invasive Species Committee joined HWMO in setting up information booths at the event. Credit: DLNR

For this year’s National Community Wildfire Preparedness Day, on May 6, HWMO thew a Beach Party to raise awareness on wildfires and their impacts on our lands, water, and communities. The Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness was held at the Old Kona Airport at the first beach pavilion. We had a number of fun classes, presentations, and activities for keiki. 

Classes included two yoga classes, a morning session with Chelsea Morriss of Soul Happy Wellness, and an afternoon one with Rachel Forsberg. HWMO’s very own Melissa Kunz taught a swing dance class that kept the hype up in the morning. There was also a kids capoeira class held by Mario Hill from Capoeira Agua de Beber - UCA Hawaii. Most of the kids that participated were completely new to the Brazilian martial art / dance. Following the class, a group of capoeiristas from various parts of the island joined in for a capoeira and samba drum performance.

Melissa Kunz teaching a swing dance class.

Melissa Kunz teaching a swing dance class.

Capoeira workshop and performances thanks to Capoeira Agua de Beber - UCA Hawaii and friends.

Capoeira workshop and performances thanks to Capoeira Agua de Beber - UCA Hawaii and friends.

Yoga with Rachel Forsberg.

Yoga with Rachel Forsberg.

Morning yoga with Chelsea Morriss.

Morning yoga with Chelsea Morriss.

Several presentations were held in the pavilion that exposed visitors to different partners of HWMO that are doing amazing work to restore our native forests and protect our watersheds. Hawaii Island Seed Bank, Big Island Invasive Species Committee, and Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance shared about their organizations to audiences of various age levels. Those same organizations also set-up information booths, which attracted many visitors, as well. 

Chief Eric Moller speaking about the importance of fire prevention during the Wildfire Lookout! launch event.

Chief Eric Moller speaking about the importance of fire prevention during the Wildfire Lookout! launch event.

A major highlight of the event was a press conference to launch the statewide wildfire campaign called Wildfire Lookout! Speakers included State Representative Cindy Evans and Chief Eric Moller of U.S. Army-Garrison, Fire & Emergency Services who both stressed the importance of fire prevention to protect our islands. Executive Director of HWMO, Elizabeth Pickett, also spoke to the visitors of the event on the importance of preparing far in advance of peak fire season. DLNR Senior Communications Director, Dan Dennison, flew from Oahu to film the press conference, as well as other activities at the start of the day. You can watch the video here:

HWMO’s crafty project assistant, Tom Loomis, set-up a few fun games for keiki including a mini golf course, home defensible space ring toss, and pachinko board to win HWMO prizes. Hawaii Fire Department brought a fire truck for kids to explore and Big Island Goat Dozers brought a goat for kids to pet. 

Wildland firefighter dress up and HFD fire engine exploring.

Wildland firefighter dress up and HFD fire engine exploring.

Various activities for keiki including mini golf.

Various activities for keiki including mini golf.

Flyer for Party for Wildfire Awareness

Flyer for Party for Wildfire Awareness

Visitors had a chance to grind on some ono food from Just the Two of Us Chicken and Waffles and Cool Runnings Food Truck. The Selassie Ites wrapped up the event with a jammin' reggae performance.

A series of door prizes were also awarded throughout the day thanks to our list of generous sponsors: Foster’s Kitchen, Daylight Mind Coffee Company, Kona Haven Coffee, Capoeira Agua de Beber, Soul Happy Wellness, The Original Donkey Balls Store, and Hawaii Water Service Company

A big mahalo to these sponsors as well as everyone else mentioned above who made the event possible, including our volunteers, staff, and board members!

Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness 5/6/17

Method to the Madness Podcast - HWMO Interview

HWMO Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler (left) and Method to the Madness host, Niklas Lollo

On December 23, just before the holiday season was in full swing, HWMO's Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler visited his alma mater, University of California, Berkeley, and was interviewed by Niklas Lollo, a current graduate student and co-host of the Method to the Madness podcast. The show, which airs regularly on KALX 90.7FM (staffed by students and community volunteers), celebrates "the innovative spirit of the Bay Area." Each episode, they "explore the people behind the ideas, what makes them tick, and why so many of them have come out of" the beautiful Bay Area.

Pablo Beimler was interviewed about various topics including the work HWMO does in the Pacific and his past experiences in the fire world.

During the interview, Pablo talked story about how HWMO came to existence and the innovative work our organization is doing to safeguard communities and natural areas in Hawaii. Topics ranged from the differences between wildfire behavior on the islands and on the mainland, Firewise Communities, the Pacific Fire Exchange, and what to expect in the coming years for wildfire management in Hawaii. Tune in and you'll also hear about some of Pablo's past experiences working in the Stephens Fire Science Lab at UC Berkeley and Lake Tahoe for CAL FIRE.

Big mahalo to Niklas Lollo and the folks over at KALX for dedicating a half hour of their air time and inviting us to be on the show!


Wildfire & Drought Look Out! Campaign Launch

With drought predicted to persist through the summer, an increase in wildfires is more than likely to follow. That’s way HWMO has teamed with a large list of government and non-government organizations across the state to launch the Wildfire & Drought Look Out! campaign, the first coordinated statewide wildfire outreach campaign in Hawaii’s history.

Pablo Beimler and Elizabeth Pickett flew to Oahu to join a press conference on May 13th to signify the official release of the campaign. Derek Wroe, NOAA National Weather Service, Rob Hauff, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Captain David Jenkins, Honolulu Fire Department, and no other than Elizabeth Pickett spoke to a group of media from KHON, KITV4, HPR, Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and others. In the backdrop was the recently charred area right above homes in Nanakuli. 

Following the press conference, the media drove up to some of the homes along the fire’s edge with Honolulu Fire Department, HWMO, and other representatives. Captain Jenkins led the media around a couple of the homes to showcase the importance of creating defensible space far in advance of a wildfire.

Elizabeth Pickett (HWMO) speaks to media with Oahu firefighters standing behind her. In the background: the charred landscape of Nanakuli from the recent fire.

News reporters and Honolulu Fire Department talk with residents who experienced the fire first-hand and created defensible space far in advance of the fire.

For years, HWMO has made it a goal to have a statewide wildfire outreach campaign become a reality. We are excited to say that this goal become reality and will continue to grow moving forward. HWMO is being embraced as the hub of wildfire info for the state and all of our agency colleagues and fire suppression folks. “We started at Pu'u Wa'awa'a and Waikoloa and worked our way to assisting additional regions and islands with the vision of being useful and utilized in big ways at the state level, and this signifies exciting progress toward that,” says Elizabeth Pickett. 

Wildfire & Drought Look Out! Campaign Launch 5/13/16

The campaign is hosted on our website here: 


Special thanks to Dan Dennison for stepping up as an incredible coordinator of these efforts (and producing the above video) and of course to all of our partners involved in this momentous effort!

Tune in to our News Center for links on the press conference on the 13th and any new updates regarding Wildfire & Drought Look Out!



Waimea Middle School 7th and 8th Grade Science Wildfire Classroom Lessons

Pablo Beimler explains to Ms. Murphy's 8th graders the basics of the fire triangle: fuel, heat, and oxygen.

HWMO continued its month of student outreach with a series of classroom lessons about wildfire prevention and preparedness with Waimea Middle School students. On November 18th, Pablo Beimler gave presentations to each of Ms. Naui Murphy's 8th grade science classes. He covered a range of wildfire issues, but focused primarily on wind, weather, soil, and mauka-to-makai connections, topics that the students had just learned or were currently learning about. For example, Pablo explained how wildfires could actually create their own weather by drawing in oxygen. At the extreme level, this peculiar behavior of wildfire can create "fire whirls" (mistakenly known as "fire tornados"), a phenomena that occurred on Mauna Kea during a massive wildfire in 2010 (video below).

Following each presentation with Ms. Murphy's classes, students gathered into small groups to work on a poster board activity. The students were to "take over" Pablo's outreach job by creating public service announcements about various topics that were covered in the presentation. Each group focused on a particular issue, such as roadside ignitions or the El Niño drought, and brainstormed ways in which they could get the messages across to the public (including through social media using hashtags, etc.)

On November 19th, Pablo returned to the WMS to give presentations to Ms. Jade Bowman's 7th grade science classes. He turned the focus more on plants and how they could help protect a home from a wildfire. Many native dryland plants, such as pohinahina and ilima, have characteristics that are considered Firewise: drought-tolerance, stay green all year, drop very little debris, and so on. Students translated their new-found understanding for these characteristics by participating in our popular Native Plant Firewise Game Show. Each class helped us determine which live plants that we brought to the classroom would be good, not-so-good, and bad for a Firewise garden. 

Ms. Bowman's 7th grade science class watches in awe the story of the Waikoloa fire in 2005.

During the first class, a fire evacuation drill occurred, which turned out to be a great teaching moment for HWMO. Pablo stressed the importance of taking these drills seriously. A number of schools across the state have had to evacuate due to encroaching wildfires. By practicing these drills regularly, should an actual emergency occur, students and staff would be ready to "Go!" seamlessly without a moment's hesitation. Pablo also told students to share their new Ready, Set, Go! Action Guides with their families to go through their own evacuation plans and to practice them as often as possible. 

Mahalo to Ms. Bowman and Ms. Murphy for opening their classrooms to HWMO and being such great hosts!

California-Nevada-Hawaii Forest Fire Council Training & Seminar - 2014

The Big Island's Waikoloa Beach Marriott played host to this year's California - Nevada - Hawaii Forest Fire Council Training and Seminar (April 9-11), drawing attendees from all over the three listed states and from the Pacific Islands. HWMO and PFX teamed up to set up a booth to disseminate information about Hawaii's wildfire issues and what's being done to mitigate them - as a highlight, PFX's first Fact Sheet was rolled out at the event: Wildfire in Hawaii (link). Day One kept the audience captivated with a variety of informative and exciting talks spanning the world over.  Attendees were informed about the latest Australian bushfires (Richard Woods), East Bay Regional Park District's WUI projects (Brad Gallup), Maui Fire Department's IMT3 activities (Henry Lindo, Jr.), and the International ICS program operating in Indonesia, Vietnam, and a variety of other countries (Rusty Witwer). Paul Steensland and Alan Carlson brought the attendees along an exciting two-hour long ride through a twenty-year investigation and hunt for the Rumsey Canyon Serial Arsonist. Preceding these great presentations, Wayne Ching, Division of Forestry and Wildlife's long-standing and soon-to-retire Fire Management Officer, as well as organizer of this year's event, was honored by those in attendance. DOFAW's Protection Foresters from each main island, Patrick Porter (Kauai), Jay Hatayama (Hawaii Island), Ryan Peralta (Oahu), and Lance De Silva (Maui) led a few morning toasts to Wayne and his remarkable career. To cap off the tribute, all attendees simultaneously revealed red shirts with a picture of Mr. Ching and a list of major incidents he had worked on in his career, either wearing or waving the shirt in a sort of Red Shirt Salute. Here's HWMO's video capturing the moment:

Day Two took members out of their seats and into the outdoors for a field tour. Following a beautiful hike along the Ala Kahakai Trail along Anaeho'omalu Bay, members caravanned over to Puako to visit the community's fuelbreak, which HWMO provided funding and assistance. Peter Hackstedde, Puako Community Association President and a new addition to the HWMO Board of Directors spoke about the fuelbreak efforts, with Elizabeth Pickett, Executive Director of HWMO and Co-Coordinator of PFX, chiming in. The group then took a driving tour through the entirety of the fuelbreak, which runs three miles and borders the entire Puako community, providing a buffer of at least 60-100 feet between houses and the mesquite (kiawe) forest. For the second time since PFX's first field tour in June 25, 2013, Wayne Ching decided to replicate the experience and discussion of the Mauna Kea 33 Fire at the physical location of the fire at Mauna Kea State Park, which threatened the last remaining population of Palila, who number less than 2000, only a few miles away. Special guests Miles Nakahara, retired HWMO President and retired DOFAW Wildlife Biologist, Eric Moller, USAG-P, FES Deputy Fire Chief, Glen Timbal, USAG-P, FES Assistant Fire Chief, Susan Cordell, US Forest Service PSW-IPIF Research Ecologist, and Mr. Hatayama joined Mr. Ching to highlight the first-hand experiences of fighting the fire. The group discussed fire boundaries, initial and extended attack details, incident command, mop-up, results of the After Action Review, suppression challenges and successes and the post-fire impacts of the fire. The discussion concluded with the ramifications on future fire and resource management for this area and its included and nearby critical habitat. Chief Moller added a nice plug for PFX, "It really does develop a concerted effort. For one, it protects my firefighters because we now have a better understanding of what's going on, but it also helps the community and the managers, set their lands up so that they're not fire-prone. It is a win-win-win all the way around," said Chief Moller. Ms. Cordell and Mr. Nakahara agreed with Chief Moller and recognizing PFX's efforts. Audio from the field tour can be heard on the left hand column.

The final day of the event kept the excitement rolling with an engaging and impactful lineup. Two of the most important events of the history of wildfire within the last decade made their way into the lineup - both events occurred in 2013. John Truett gave a moving and harrowing review of the Yarnell Hill Fire which claimed the lives of 19 firefighters in Arizona last year. Mr. Truett reviewed the chain of events that led to the fatality, as well as the incredibly challenging orchestration of the ceremonies thereafter. We will never know the full stories, since those were lost with those who had fallen, but the talk gave a clearer picture of the day's tumultuous proceedings. The room fell respectfully silent after the presentation ended with an emotional video honoring the 19. Following a presentation about emergency preparedness at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (David Benitez), Incident Commander Jerry McGowan gave an insightful and entertaining presentation reporting the details of the 3rd largest fire in California's history, the Rim Fire, and the unprecedented conditions that firefighters were up against, as well as how the incident was managed given a multi-agency, multi-state response.   
HWMO and PFX had the honor to share a presentation before these speakers. Ms. Pickett gave background on HWMO and the many projects it's currently involved in throughout the state, including Hazard Assessments, Community Wildfire Protection Plans, and fuels management projects. Clay Trauernicht, PFX Co-Coordinator and UH Manoa CTAHR Wildfire Extension Specialist, took over the reins to present the latest Hawaii wildfire history data and analyses. To present this information within the context we were in was certainly a highlight for HWMO and PFX. "Definitely the heaviest line-up of speakers I've ever had the honor to share a podium with. It's a truly inspirational group of folks involved with fire across the western region," exclaimed Mr. Trauernicht. Video of the presentation can be seen here in a 2-part YouTube series:

Banner photo: Elizabeth Pickett, HWMO Executive Director, gives a presentation on the final day of an impressive line-up of speakers.