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.
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.