trainings

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.

Malama Learning Center Teacher Training on Wildfire and Climate Change

West Oahu teachers play a round of “Fire Tag.”

West Oahu teachers play a round of “Fire Tag.”

HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Akira Beimler, and University of Hawaii CTAHR Cooperative Extension’s Wildfire Specialist, Dr. Clay Trauernicht presented a full morning of information on wildfire and climate change in Hawaii to West Oahu school teachers. West Oahu is an epicenter of wildfire activity, so we were very grateful for the opportunity to share information on Ready, Set, Go!, Firewise Communities, and Wildfire LOOKOUT! We even had the teachers do a round of “Fire Tag” to then teach to students — the game is a great way to learn about how fire has destroyed native forests and created Hawaiian savannas. Mahalo Malama Learning Center for inviting us and Kapolei High School for hosting us!

Malama Learning Center Teacher Training - Wildfire and Climate Change_2_23_2019_6.jpg

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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TELE Workshop - Wildfire Breakout Group

Wildfire Breakout Group

Wildfire Breakout Group

On February 22 and 23 in Kaneohe, HWMO and a group of HWMO’s partners from University of Hawaii CTAHR, DNLR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Guam Forestry, and Honolulu Fire Department gathered for a breakout discussion on how to improve engagement around the wildfire issue in Hawaii Kai and Waianae. The discussion was part of a TELE Workshop, a project of the Sustaining Family Forests Initiative, a collaboration between Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Center for Nonprofit Strategies. During the workshop, participants learned the ins and outs of designing and implementing more effective programming and outreach with landowners. We found the training to be incredibly useful and it will help us better our own wildfire engagement strategies.

Banner photo credit: DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife

TELE Workshop Wildfire Breakout Group 2/22/2018

Kanehoa Firewise Native Plant Workshop

Kanehoa, a subdivision halfway between Kawaihae and Waimea on Hawaii Island, was the second community in Hawaii to become a nationally-recognized Firewise Community. Since 2015, they have contributed hundreds of volunteer hours and linked with HWMO for a couple of $5,000 grants to remove flammable vegetation from along internal roadsides. As part of the next step in their action plan, they hope to plant more native vegetation along common areas and around their own homes. 

2016 Firewise Day: Kanehoa residents took fuels reduction into their own hands with a $500 grant from State Farm and $5,000 grant from HWMO to remove haole koa from roadsides. Here is a before...

2016 Firewise Day: Kanehoa residents took fuels reduction into their own hands with a $500 grant from State Farm and $5,000 grant from HWMO to remove haole koa from roadsides. Here is a before...

...and after.

...and after.

Native dryland plants can be an added defense for your home, though like with any plants, site location and what you plant matters greatly for fire safety reasons. On November 4th, Kanehoa Firewise Committee members invited HWMO to join them for a Firewise Native Plant Workshop. Fifteen community members listened in as guest speaker Jill Wagner of Hawaii Island Seed Bank talked story about the importance of restoring native plants in our own communities. The area between Puu Waa Waa to Kohala Mountain on the leeward side was one of the most biodiverse areas in Hawaii, she shared. Years of drought, invasive species and disease stress, overgrazing, climate change, and wildfire have contributed to the demise of the native forests, which act as important watersheds. We have seen some success in recent years towards preserving and restoring these native forests with the emergence of strong conservation partnerships and efforts, better grazing practices targeted towards conservation and wildfire risk reduction, and wildfire protection projects that span the South Kohala area. However, there is still a lot to be done and we can all play a large role even around our own homes. 

Ms. Wagner brought in a few native plants of her own for Kanehoa residents to pass around and get to know better. She enlightened us on ground covers such as iliee, akia, pohinahina and pau o hiiaka; shrubs such as aalii, aweoweo, and alahee; and trees such as mamane, lama, ohe makai, and wiliwili. If these names are unfamiliar to you or you would like to learn more, click on the links below. 

Waikii Ranch Firewise Hazard Training and BBQ

Community members from all over Waikii Ranch participated in the community's first Firewise Day on September 23, 2017.

Community members from all over Waikii Ranch participated in the community's first Firewise Day on September 23, 2017.

Waikii Ranch, which is surrounded by fire-prone grasslands on all sides, is a community near Waimea that is well on its way to being one of the next nationally-recognized Firewise Communities as of 2017. They took another major step on September 23 by hosting a Firewise Hazard Training and BBQ, which qualified as their annual Firewise Day. Over 25 community members joined in to listen to presentations from HWMO and our partners from Hawaii Fire Department, U.S. Army-Garrison Fire and Emergency Services, and DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife. HWMO’s Pablo Beimler gave a presentation on wildfire impacts, background on wildfire preparedness programs (Ready, Set, Go! and Wildfire Lookout!), and a brief intro to the Firewise Communities Recognition Program.

From left to right: Gary Grisham (Waikii Ranch Firewise Committee), Jacob Witcraft (DLNR DOFAW), Pablo Beimler (HWMO), Chief Eric Moller (US Army-Garrison, FES), and Captain Bill Bergin (HFD). Photo credit: Lynn Scully.

From left to right: Gary Grisham (Waikii Ranch Firewise Committee), Jacob Witcraft (DLNR DOFAW), Pablo Beimler (HWMO), Chief Eric Moller (US Army-Garrison, FES), and Captain Bill Bergin (HFD). Photo credit: Lynn Scully.

U.S. Army’s Chief Eric Moller spoke thereafter with the main message being that by becoming a Firewise Community, residents were taking an important step towards protecting themselves as well as the lives and safety of first responders. Captain Bill Bergin from HFD followed with several Firewise tips and background on some of the fire issues and history in Waikii. Jacob from DOFAW’s State Tree Nursery also spoke about the importance of creating defensible space and recommended the community plant more native trees and understory to reduce wildfire risk. To wrap up the presentations, a resident of Puu Kapu who lost her home in a recent brushfire gave a first-hand account of her harrowing experience evacuating the fire. She stressed the importance of planning ahead and it was a truly courageous thing for her to share her story in front of so many people.

After the speakers shared their thoughts, a member of the Waikii Ranch HOA put on a Firewise video outlining tips on Firewise landscaping and home fire-proofing. 

The event concluded with a BBQ where fire officials mingled with community members and enjoyed delicious grindz. Thank you Waikii Ranch HOA for hosting all of us and being a part of the growing Firewise movement in Hawaii.

Waikii Ranch Firewise Hazards Training and BBQ 9/23/17

Kohala Waterfront Firewise Meeting and Ready Set Go! Workshop

Kohala Waterfront homeowners joined HWMO and the Firewise Committee to learn more about how they could help the community become a nationally-recognized Firewise Community.

Kohala Waterfront homeowners joined HWMO and the Firewise Committee to learn more about how they could help the community become a nationally-recognized Firewise Community.

Kawaihae is becoming a hot bed, not just for wildfire, but for grassroots community efforts to reduce the wildfire threat in the fire-prone area. Kohala-By-The-Sea and Honokoa subdivisions have received Firewise Communities recognition inspiring Kohala Waterfront, a newer subdivision on the makai side of the highway opposite of the two other subdivisions, to pursue certification for 2017. 

On August 17, HWMO and Kohala Waterfront Firewise Committee hosted a meeting of twelve concerned and enthusiastic Kohala Waterfront homeowners to hear highlights from the Firewise Community Hazard Assessment conducted by HWMO and Hawaii Fire Department a few months ago. We shared our concerns about the sea of buffelgrass that surrounded homes throughout the subdivision and unlimbed kiawe trees that were dangerously encroaching upon homes. Although it may seem daunting at first, Kohala Waterfront has a lot working towards their advantage, especially since they are a newer subdivision and can get the community going in the right direction by becoming a Firewise Community early on. We gave tips based on Ready Set Go! and Wildfire Lookout! on how residents could reduce the fire threat around their homes or better yet, as a community. 

Kohala Waterfront is well on their way to becoming one of the next Firewise Communities, of which there are now nine in the state. 

PFX/HWMO Palehua Wildfire Mitigation Strategies Workshop and Field Tour

Opening circle and prayer to begin the day.

Opening circle and prayer to begin the day.

Pacific Fire Exchange (PFX) and HWMO linked up on July 17 to hold an exciting day of fun and learning in Palehua, just mauka of Makakilo on Oʻahu. PFX’s Clay Trauernicht, Melissa Kunz, and Elizabeth Pickett spent several weeks planning this wildfire mitigation strategies workshop that led into a field tour as a follow-up to a workshop they put on at the PICCC conference several months ago. HMMO’s Pablo Beimler also joined the workshop as a helping hand. The Palehua workshop was tied into the Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference as a pre-conference event that interested conservationists could attend. Thirty or so people from various agencies and organizations including National Park Service, Honolulu Fire Department, Fed Fire, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, and University of Hawaiʻi joined the event. 

The day kicked off with a workshop at Palehua Camp, formerly Camp Timberline, amongst tall trees and with scenic views of the Ewa area below. Clay Trauernicht gave a brief presentation on fire science using data he was synthesizing from the HWMO fire history database. Some interesting new factoids included:

* 75% of fires in Hawaiʻi are accidental

* 75% of fires in Hawaiʻi occur under drought conditions

* Over 80% of areas burned in Hawaiʻi are grassland/shrubland areas

Clay also shared about values at risk and their vulnerabilities. He adapted an equation he learned from a recent climate adaptation workshop, to fit into the fire science framework:

Vulnerability = exposure (fire hazards) + resource sensitivity (sensitivity to fire) — adaptive capacity (wildfire mitigation)

Elizabeth followed Clay’s presentation by highlighting various mitigation strategies. With these presentations in mind, the participants broke into groups for a computer-based activity. The groups picked a “designated mouse driver” and dug into the wildfire hazards and values at risk in Palehua using Google Earth. Once they determined areas of concern and the hazards that threatened those areas, they determined mitigation strategies they could apply to the area to reduce the fire hazard. They then shared their findings with the rest of the workshop participants. Anu and McD, two men who knew Palehua on the back of their hands, blessed us with examples of mitigation strategies they had actually implemented or planned to implement in the area. 

Breaking out into groups to discuss wildfire mitigation strategies for Palehua.

Breaking out into groups to discuss wildfire mitigation strategies for Palehua.

Scanning through Google Earth to determine areas of concern and wildfire hazards in Palehua.

Scanning through Google Earth to determine areas of concern and wildfire hazards in Palehua.

The workshop then shifted into a field tour as participants hopped into vans for the afternoon. The first stop was an overlook area where one could see where the 2014 Makakilo fire started and took off. The fire was an intense one that killed over 200 wiliwili trees and charred several homes. Mikiʻala Akiona, Public Education Specialist for Honolulu Fire Department, noted how difficult the fire was to suppress due to the many hot spots and restarts that occurred. The group then stopped towards the top of Palehua at a ranch-style building called Hokuloa, which had been used as a staging area and command center for large fires. Participants learned about the importance of having the right fittings for water tanks (as well as the need for suction hoses) and for creating fuelbreaks horizontal to the slope. Throughout this discussion, the participants had a spectacular view of central Oʻahu, which became increasingly obscured by a large rain cloud headed their way. 

Looking out over the area where the Makakilo 2014 fire started.

Looking out over the area where the Makakilo 2014 fire started.

Group photo in front of Nānakuli backdrop.

Group photo in front of Nānakuli backdrop.

Rain cloud headed towards the group while looking towards Kunia.

Rain cloud headed towards the group while looking towards Kunia.

Back of Nānakuli Valley where remnant native forests still exist.

Back of Nānakuli Valley where remnant native forests still exist.

The group then traveled up to a cabin for views of the north side of Palehua, where the discussion turned its focus toward the 2016 Nānakuli Fire that threatened homes and resources such as communication towers. The final stop added a little bit of adventure to the day. The participants hiked up to the top of Mauna Kapu through bamboo forests, stopping for a chant led by Anu before reaching the sacred peak. Once atop the mauna, Gary Gill, a large landowner in the area, gave background on how special the place they were surrounded by was. The area used to have one of the highest concentrations of native tree snails, but the population had been steadily declining within the last couple of years. There were several populations of different varieties of native birds still calling the area their home. Previous fires had burned ʻiliahi forests in the back of Nānakuli Valley, but about half of them had recovered, although they were much more stunted in growth than before. 

The workshop and field tour was a memorable one for us all and we hope that the valuable lessons and conversations that took place were of value for all of the participants. Mahalo to all who came out for a special day in Palehua.  

PFX-HWMO Wildfire Mitigation Strategies Workshop and Field Tour of Palehua 7/17/17

Ready Set Go! Workshop with HFD New Recruits

Pablo Beimler presenting to HFD recruits back in November 2016.

Pablo Beimler presenting to HFD recruits back in November 2016.

HWMO fills a niche even in training firefighters on wildfire prevention and mitigation strategies. On June 30, HWMO’s Pablo Beimler gave a presentation to twenty-or-so new Hawaiʻi Fire Department recruits. Pablo began by playing a video we produced last year on how wildfires impact our coastlines (watch below). Following the video, he dove into the various programs that HWMO used to teach residents and large landowners about wildfire prevention and protection: Ready, Set, Go!, Firewise Communities, and Wildfire Lookout! We thank Captain Bill Bergin and the rest of HFD for the opportunity to speak to a new class of brave firefighters. 

Hawaiʻi Environmental Education Symposium 2017

Elizabeth Pickett shares lessons learned from the youth stewardship program she runs called Ocean Warriors.

Elizabeth Pickett shares lessons learned from the youth stewardship program she runs called Ocean Warriors.

Much of what HWMO does falls under the category of “environmental education.” Talking about wildfire prevention requires making the connection that our built environment is intertwined with the natural world. From June 8 through 10, the Hawaiʻi Environmental Education Alliance hosted a symposium for it’s sixth year to gather environmental educators from across the state. HWMO attended the symposium, which was held at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Kilauea Military Camp, on June 9. The theme this year was climate change, a topic that has numerous intersections with wildfires in Hawaiʻi. 

The day began with a sobering, yet very informative talk from Dr. Chip Fletcher, a scientist from UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. His talk gave insight on a multitude of factual examples of how climate change has already taken Hawaiʻi by storm, no pun intended. Of those many examples, increased drought and shifts in vegetative cover were highlighted, conditions that will continue to increase wildfire risk statewide. Throughout the rest of the day, various educators shared examples of how they had used climate change as a framework to teach valuable lessons about the environment. Elizabeth Pickett, HWMO’s Executive Director, is not only a wildfire educator, but she is also youth environmental stewardship educator through the Malama Kai Foundation Ocean Warrior’s program. Elizabeth gave a presentation about the program and shared lessons learned on how to best encourage youth to become environmental leaders in their community.

HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, also gave a presentation on behalf of Hawaii Wildfire. His presentation highlighted various youth products that HWMO has produced for educators including our very own K-8th grade curriculum, kNOw Fire. Several educators from across the state were on hand for the presentation, some of whom enthusiastically expressed that they were willing to integrate the curriculum into their own work. 

HEEA Symposium on Climate Change 6/9/17