Waialea Firewise Community Hazard Assessment

Over a decade ago, the residents of Waialea and HWMO began discussing the establishment of a living (or shaded) fuelbreak along the mauka edge of the community to increase fire protection for the homes in the subdivision. Since then, HWMO has worked on a number of projects with Waialea to ensure wildfires, which are common in the area, keep clear of their homes. In the past, wildfires have even burned down homes and structures in Waialea, something we hope will never happen again if the right measures are taken.

HWMO VP Sam Patten points out charred fire post from a previous wildfire that burned right up to homes in Waialea.

Waialea residents and homeowners walk along a fire access road that splits the living fuelbreak.

To keep Waialea residents safe, HWMO is working with Waialea to help them become one of the next Firewise communities, a recognition that Kanehoa subdivision recently received. As a major step towards Firewise certification, HWMO’s Pablo Beimler and Sam Patten joined a group of residents (and a contractor who will be tasked with thinning the living fuelbreak with HWMO’s funding) to walk around the neighborhood and assess the community’s wildfire risk. 

The group began the tour by taking a look at the current state of the living fuelbreak. Within the break, there are a number of native and drought-tolerant plants that were established years ago but the area is currently in need of some thinning. HWMO will be providing a $5000 grant to Waialea to remove the flammable vegetation within the break and thin the trees to reduce ladder fuels. 

Keeping tree branches away from the home along the fire-free zone can make a significant difference protecting it from wildfire.

We also visited a couple of homes to get a better sense for what the average home looks like in relation to the landscape. Owners of the homes took a number of precautions to make sure there was enough defensible space, including creating a fire-free zone 5 feet around the home, and that structures were fire-proofed, including using non-combustible roofing and enclosing eaves.

HWMO will be working on completing the assessment over the next few weeks, which will become a useful tool for Waialea to help them determine the next steps for becoming wildfire ready.