For the 2nd straight year, communities from across the nation gathered together to take action to reduce the wildfire hazards in their neighborhoods. We joined in on the national effort by organizing our second Wildfire Prep Day event at the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park next to the community pool in Waikoloa on May 2nd. Within three hours of the morning, we were able to accomplish quite a lot with our partners and community members, working towards the goals of having a heightened wildfire awareness and a well-developed preparedness skill set.
The event started off with a few words from our Board president, Mike Tomich, highlighting the need for wildfire preparedness in the most fire-prone area in the State of Hawaiʻi. This was not new news to many of the event's visitors, who had experienced some of the largest fires in history first-hand.
Following the opening speech, we held a Firefighter Meet-and-Greet where community members and keiki were able to explore the wonders of the fire engine and ambulance on hand. Hawaii Fire Department firefighters gave tours of the apparatuses and even let the kids get their hands on the steering wheel (though with ignition off, of course!)
After the tours, people were able to interact with members from Waikoloa CERT, National Fire Protection and Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, who all set-up booths for the event. We also had a Keiki Craft Corner where kids were able to color in new Kaleo the Pueo art and create wildfire prevention signs.
The second half of the event focused attention on the Firewise demo garden. Tom Loomis, Garden Manager and Firewise teacher extraordinaire, led a group of keiki through a Firewise Plant Game Show. While Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative's Jess held a plant in hand, Tom described the plant to the keiki to help them determine whether a plant was a good Firewise plant, a neutral one, or a bad one. The keiki translated these into smiley faces on their score cards. We showed them a variety of plants including "happy face" plants like ʻaʻaliʻi, ʻilima oʻahu, and kuluʻī; "neutral face" plants like dill and ʻawa; and "sad face" plants like pepper tree and pili grass. The students were spot-on with their landscaping decisions, knowing that plants that were drought-tolerant, native, and wind-resistant were the best candidates for becoming part of our Firewise garden.
This led us into the final segment of the preparedness day event: a native planting volunteer session. Firefighters, keiki, CERT members, and others took part in getting their hands dirty (and rocky) by planting 75+ native plants to demonstrate how easy and enjoyable planting natives in the garden could be.
Wildfire Prep Day was a huge success nationally and here at the local level. We thank all of our amazing partners for their support of the event: Hawaii Fire Department, Waikoloa CERT, Waikoloa Firewise Committee, Waikoloa Village Association, Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, National Fire Protection, and National Fire Protection Agency.