Community Assessments

Nanawale Estates ReadySetGo! Workshop and Firewise Intro

 The Nanawale Estates community members who came to the workshop are willing and ready to help the community become a Firewise site.

The Nanawale Estates community members who came to the workshop are willing and ready to help the community become a Firewise site.

We started the week by working on recruiting a potential new Firewise Community in Puna on the Big Island (which would be the first on the east side). Proactive Nanawale residents and HOA staff joined us for a wildfire preparedness workshop on February 5 at the Nanawale Longhouse. We guided the workshop attendees through the Ready, Set, Go! program and encouraged them to pursue looking into becoming a nationally-recognized Firewise Community. Following the presentation, we walked over to a nearby home to practice assessing a home ignition zone for wildfire hazards (the best way to learn is out in the field!)

During the workshop, we held an input session to hear about the wildfire-related concerns of community members. Some key concerns included albizia control, lack of ingress/egress, and lack of continuous support from legislators. We then discussed possible solutions that could help address these issues. Nanawale is no stranger to environmental hazards. In 2014, the Pahoa lava flow threatened the community and the recent Hurricane Iselle proved very damaging to the community, which was largely out of power for several weeks. The community may not have gotten the federal aid and even local government support they had hoped for, but they took matters in their own hands anyways by supporting each other. This is a key function of a Firewise Community that is fire-adapted to its surroundings: building community resilience for the long-run is most impactful and effective when the whole community comes together.  

Nanawale Estates ReadySetGo! Workshop and Firewise Intro 2/5/2018

Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove Firewise Hazard Assessment

The Firewise Communities movement is spreading to Oahu! Over the last two years, HWMO has assisted 10 communities in becoming nationally-recognized Firewise Communities. There are now 11 official communities in Hawaii, part of a network of over 1,400 across the U.S. Those 11 communities are located on Hawaii Island and Maui. That is soon to change as proactive residents and community organizations from Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove are taking the necessary steps towards making their beloved community in Hawaii Kai a Firewise Community. 

 Private landowners, contractors, farmers, legislators, community groups, government agencies...we are truly seeing a Firewise Community in the making where all stakeholders play an important role. 

Private landowners, contractors, farmers, legislators, community groups, government agencies...we are truly seeing a Firewise Community in the making where all stakeholders play an important role. 

This year has been a particularly stressful one for Kamilonui Valley Farm Lots and Mariner’s Cove residents. Over a dozen suspicious fire starts, a few that grew into larger fires, had burned close to the community in the first half of 2017. Since then, the community has been charged to take action. HWMO linked with Livable Hawaii Kai Hui and Senator Stanley Chang’s Office to organize a community-wide Firewise hazard assessment on November 27. Together with representatives from DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, Royal Contracting, and Kamilonui Farm Lots, the working group walked and drove around the community to examine common wildfire hazards and areas for potential wildfire risk reduction projects. 

The assessment team first convened at the Mariner’s Cove Bay Club to map out an itinerary for the day, determine priority community areas to examine on the field assessment, and establish boundaries for the Firewise Community designation. Following the meeting, the team walked along an access road off of Hawaii Kai Drive, visited Pahua Heiau, and caravanned to the end of Kamilonui Place to examine the wildland area in the back of the valley. Along with these priority areas, the team also visited a home to conduct a “Home Ignition Zone” assessment to gain a better idea of the wildfire hazards at the individual lot level and pull locally-relevant examples of best practices for creating defensible space and fire-proofing structures.

 The assessment team examining fuels, or flammable vegetation, along the wildland border of Kamilonui-Mariner's Cove.

The assessment team examining fuels, or flammable vegetation, along the wildland border of Kamilonui-Mariner's Cove.

 Hearing from a resident about her wildfire hazard concerns.

Hearing from a resident about her wildfire hazard concerns.

Once HWMO completes a written report of the hazard assessment, they will present their findings to the working group and the larger community in February 2018. The working group will take recommendations provided in the report into consideration when they develop an action plan for wildfire risk reduction activities in their community.

We thank all of the partners who joined us for the hazard assessment and are excited for what’s to come in 2018 for Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove!

Kamilonui-Mariner's Cove Firewise Community Hazard Assessment 11/27/17

Firewise Workshop 2018 in Boise

HWMO had the honor on October 31 to share about its Firewise Communities successes (and challenges) at the national Firewise Workshop hosted by the National Fire Protection Association in Boise, Idaho. Community Outreach Coordinator for HWMO, Pablo Beimler, presented on the importance of laying the foundations for community-wide grassroots and sustained actions towards becoming a Firewise Community. This requires building autonomy, pride, inspiration, and enthusiasm in community members, along with agency and governmental support.

 View of Boise from the foothills near the city.

View of Boise from the foothills near the city.

Hawaii was well-represented at the workshop that was held at the Grove Hotel. Representatives from Honolulu Fire Department and DLNR Division of Forestry were there with HWMO, thanks to funding support NFPA. We were informed about updates relating to Firewise and joined interesting group discussions regarding the future of wildfire risk reduction work in the U.S.

As an added bonus, with our friends from HFD and DOFAW, we took part in a two-day training on assessing the Home Ignition Zone (HIZ). The training was taught by two extremely knowledgeable wildland fire experts: Jack Cohen, who many consider being a father of modern wildfire mitigation theory and practices, and Pat Durland, who has 30 years of experience as a wildland firefighter and mitigation specialist. Together, they gave engaging lessons on fire ecology and science, the sociology behind assessing homes, and more. On the final day of the training, we hopped on the bus with the other training participants, who hailed from across the U.S., and practiced assessing home ignition zones in a local Firewise Community. 

 Trainees practicing their new home ignition zone assessment skills at a home in a local Firewise Community.

Trainees practicing their new home ignition zone assessment skills at a home in a local Firewise Community.

 Jack Cohen (right) provides insight regarding home ignition hazards around a practice home.

Jack Cohen (right) provides insight regarding home ignition hazards around a practice home.

Big thanks to NFPA for inviting and flying us to Boise to share about our efforts and learn from experts in the field!

Firewise Workshop 2018 in Boise

Puu Kapu Firewise Community Hazard Assessment

The Firewise Communities movement in Hawaii continues to grow. There are now 11 Firewise Communities in Hawaii, 10 of which HWMO has assisted in the last two years. Puukapu Farm Lots, which spans thousands of acres of Department of Hawaiian Homeland-owned pasture in Waimea on Hawaii Island, is the latest candidate for becoming a Firewise Community. HWMO has a new round of funding from the US Forest Service, with additional help from State Farm, to assist at least 4 more communities towards becoming a nationally-recognized Firewise Community. Puukapu residents have jumped on the opportunity early, aiming to become certified in 2018. 

The homestead community has had many encounters with brushfires over the years, especially during droughts and summer months. The most recent large fire that occurred in and around Puukapu was a 2,200-acre wildfire that started on July 7, 2017. The fire originated from one of the lots on the southwest end of Puukapu and, fueled by strong prevailing trade winds, quickly spread through the adjacent Parker Ranch pastures towards Highway 190. The start of the fire is now suspected to be an accidental start from fireworks. Several residents stayed to fight the fire with garden hoses before first responders could arrive to protect a home on one of the properties. Other residents also helped by driving skid steers or tractors to create firebreaks. Fortunately, no human casualties resulted from the blaze. The fire did, however, burn down a home and vehicle and took the lives of a couple of sheep on another property. There was also significant damage to fencing, waterlines, and water tanks on both Puukapu private lots and Parker Ranch lands, let alone the thousands of acres of pasture that were burned.

 July 2017 brushfire that burned in Puukapu and towards the highway. Credit: Hawaii Tribune Herald

July 2017 brushfire that burned in Puukapu and towards the highway. Credit: Hawaii Tribune Herald

As a response to the latest fire, several community members gathered on October 20, 2017, to meet with HWMO and Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) representatives to conduct a community-wide Firewise hazard assessment. The assessment team first convened at the entrance of Poliahu Alanui to map out an itinerary for the day and determine priority community areas to examine on the field assessment. The team drove throughout the subdivision, examining various water resources and wildland borders along the way Along with the priority areas, the team visited a few homes to conduct a “Home Ignition Zone” assessment to gain a better idea of the wildfire hazards at the individual lot level and pull locally-relevant examples of best practices for creating defensible space and fire-proofing structures. 

 The assessment crew examining a standpipe in Puukapu.

The assessment crew examining a standpipe in Puukapu.

 Taking notes on a dip tank that has the potential for use during wildfires.

Taking notes on a dip tank that has the potential for use during wildfires.

Once HWMO completes a written report of the hazard assessment, they will present their findings to the new Firewise Committee formed by Puukapu community members. The Committee will take recommendations provided in the report into consideration when they develop an action plan for wildfire risk reduction activities in their community.

We thank the Puukapu community members and HFD for joining the hazard assessment and look forward to their continuing partnership in this effort to establish Puukapu as a Firewise Community.

Puukapu Firewise Community Hazard Assessment

Kohala Waterfront Firewise Hazard Assessment

Firewise Communities is quickly taking the Kawaihae area by storm. Kohala-By-The-Sea, the longest running certified Firewise Community in the state, and one of the newest Firewise Communities, Honokoa, are both located in the arid Kawaihae region. Kohala Waterfront is the next community to step up to the plate. On April 19, as a major step towards certification, a couple residents from the gated community on the makai side of the highway (and directly across from Kohala-By-The-Sea) met with HWMO and HFD representatives to conduct a Firewise hazard assessment. They visited several homes to point out and document fire hazards and successful Firewise practices put in place. They also walked along a stretch of the Ala Kahakai Trail which runs adjacent to the makai side of the community. One of the main community-wide hazards they noted were overgrown kiawe trees adjacent to several homes. U.S. Forest Service, through HWMO’s administration, has granted the community $5,000 for a fuels reduction project, which HWMO recommended could be put towards kiawe limbing. 

 Native kou growing on mowed green belts that serve as living fuelbreaks along roadsides within Kohala Waterfront.

Native kou growing on mowed green belts that serve as living fuelbreaks along roadsides within Kohala Waterfront.

 There are lots of signs of previous burns throughout the subdivision including this charred stump of a kiawe tree.

There are lots of signs of previous burns throughout the subdivision including this charred stump of a kiawe tree.

Kohala Waterfront Firewise Hazard Assessment 4/19/17

Waikiʻi Ranch Firewise Hazard Assessment

 HFD Fire Prevention, HWMO, and Waikiʻi Ranch HOA teamed up to assess wildfire hazards in and around the subdivision.

HFD Fire Prevention, HWMO, and Waikiʻi Ranch HOA teamed up to assess wildfire hazards in and around the subdivision.

For the casual passer-by during the winter, the rolling green hills of Waikiʻi Ranch may strike them as an area free of wildfire threats. However, over the past several years, Waikiʻi Ranch has had numerous close calls with wildfires that have burned in and around the subdivision. The subdivision is exposed on each side by large tracts of unmanaged grass and shrublands prone to ignition from starts along neighboring roads and highways. 

On March 6, HWMO teamed up with Hawaiʻi Fire Department and Waikiʻi Ranch HOA to conduct a Firewise hazard assessment for Waikiʻi. The group first met at the community clubhouse to discuss what it takes for a community to become Firewise certified. As a major first step towards certification, the a few members of the group drove to various points of interest within the community. Some of the major wildfire hazards that struck our attention included the many dead trees along the edges of roads and fencelines, piles of wood underneath tree canopies, and large expanses of unmanaged grass and shrublands surrounding homes and the greater Waikiʻi area. 

The association has been allocating some of their funds and resources towards Firewise improvements already. Most notably, the community has herds of cows, goats, and sheep that are used to graze easements along the perimeters of properties and the subdivision boundary. As more and more people in Waikiʻi join the Firewise efforts, the community will hopefully become another shining example in Hawaiʻi and a part of a statewide collaborative, grassroots movement for communities to take fire readiness into their own hands.

Waikii Ranch Firewise Hazard Assessment

Puʻunoa Firewise Hazard Assessment

Assessment team walking along a road to assess wildfire risks/hazards.

In 2016, Launiupoko, near Lahaina, became the first nationally-recognized Firewise Community in West Maui. The accomplishment did not go unnoticed. In fact, news quickly spread to the neighboring Puʻunoa community. This year, Puʻunoa will be working towards the same certification as Launiupoko. 

To begin the process, HWMO joined its partners from Division of Forestry and Wildlife and West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership to conduct a Firewise hazard assessment of the agricultural lots in Puʻunoa. The team first met with several residents from Puʻunoa and the general manager of the HOA to discuss the Firewise certification process.

 Assessment team examines road crossing on Kauaula Stream that was damaged during a recent rain event. 

Assessment team examines road crossing on Kauaula Stream that was damaged during a recent rain event. 

They soon followed the meeting by caravanning (and walking/hiking) throughout the community to assess common wildfire hazards and successful Firewise modifications around homes. Brainstorming ideas, the topic of managed grazing emerged numerous times as one of the ways to mitigate the large tracts of flammable grasslands. The group made their way to the Makila Reservoir and Kauaula Stream, important water suppression resources used by firefighters during past wildfires in the area. During one of the recent storms, the roadway across the stream was destroyed — flooding is another hazard the community faces.

Mahalo to DOFAW, WMMWP, Hawaiiana Management Company, and the newly formed Puʻunoa Firewise Committee for playing an important role in moving Puʻunoa towards Firewise certification.

Puunoa Firewise Hazard Assessment 2/10/17

Puako Firewise Community Hazard Assessment

HWMO, HFD, and Puako Firewise Committee teamed up to conduct a hazard assessment on December 2.

On December 2, Puako Firewise Committee checked another major box off the list to become a Firewise Community as of 2016 (neighboring Waialea is also on pace for certification this year). Committee members, along with HWMO and Hawaii Fire Department, caravanned through the subdivision to note common wildfire hazards and good Firewise practices already being implemented.

Although the community has taken major steps towards wildfire protection by creating a large fuelbreak on the mauka side of the subdivision, homes are still at-risk of wildfires, especially from lofted embers. There is still much work that should be done directly behind homes on the mauka side — the Puako Firewise Committee is ready to take on this challenge as one of their next steps for the coming year. For now, the committee is bracing for a Firewise Community certification that has been a long time coming for them. 

Puako Firewise Community Hazard Assessment 12/2/16

Kahikinui Ready, Set, Go! Workshop and Firewise Hazard Assessment

Assessment team poses in front of a local example of xeriscaping using Firewise principles and native/adapted plants.

Kahikinui continued its incredible year of wildfire protection efforts on November 6, 2016. The homestead on the southern slopes of Haleakala on Maui is a small, but very active community that is on pace to become one of the first Firewise Communities on the island (and one of the first Hawaiian homesteads in the state). As one of the requirements, HWMO, Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership, and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands conducted a wildfire hazard assessment with Kahikinui Firewise Committee members. Together, they drove around the bumpy 4-WD roads of the community to take note of common wildfire hazards and good Firewise practices already being implemented. The greatest concerns were the high fuel loads on the highway, between homes, and in the surrounding wildland areas. Lack of water resources and firefighting access and ingress/egress were also noticeable concerns.

Assessment team walks the perimeter of a Firewise home within the community.

The Kahikinui Firewise Committee is already planning and working on multiple projects to address these concerns. With a contribution from Sempra Auwahi Wind, they will replace their front gate and remove flammable vegetation at the entrance of the community in December. The proactive committee is a great model for other communities at-risk of wildfires — even with the numerous challenges they face, they have persisted to take small, but important, steps to reduce wildfire hazards to protect their beloved home.

Kahikinui Firewise Community Hazard Assessment 11/6/16

Kailapa Firewise Community Hazard Assessment

Kailapa is a Hawaiian homestead in Kawaihae on over 10,000 acres from the shoreline to the base of Kohala Mountain. Homes there, first built in the late 1980s, are surrounded by very flammable grasslands that have experienced numerous fires over the years. Winds are a major factor in the extreme wildfire behavior that can occur in the area. The most recent threat occurred starting on August 8, 2015. The most recent threat occurred starting on August 8, 2015. A 4,5000-acre wildfire burned across Kawaihae, directly impacting local communities, businesses, and cultural sites in the area. Roads were closed and evacuations were ordered by Civil Defense for Kawaihae. Nearly 90% of the native plants at Puu Kohola were destroyed and large piles of timber from a eucalyptus harvest project in Hamakua were ablaze. The fire burned towards Kailapa, but firefighters were able to stop it a few gulches away. A week later, a large rainfall event washed unprecedented amounts of sediment and debris down the watersheds and out into the ocean, smothering neighboring coral reefs. Local residents recount that the floods were the worst in recent memory. HWMO produced a video documenting the events.

Assessment team looks out at the neighboring wildland areas that have burned numerous times.

The wildfire concerns in Kailapa have spurred the community to action. Since the beginning of 2016, a group of Kailapa residents have been working with HWMO to protect their community from wildfire by becoming a nationally-recognized Firewise Community. As one of the requirements, HWMO and Hawaii Fire Department conducted a community wildfire hazard assessment with Kailapa residents on November 3. Together, the assessment team caravanned throughout the community to note and photograph common wildfire hazards, as well as good Firewise practices already being implemented. The greatest concerns were the lack of water resources, ingress/egress, and fuels management between homes and in the surrounding wildland areas.

Living fuelbreak that was created in the spring of 2016 using U.S. Forest Service WUI grant funding through HWMO.

In the spring of 2016, Kailapa, with the facilitation of U.S. Forest Service WUI funds from HWMO, created a living fuelbreak on a slope on Kona side of the subdivision. The community would like to continue and expand project such as these throughout the subdivision to better protect homes from the dangers of wildfire in Kawaihae.

Kailapa is on pace to become the first Hawaiian homestead on Hawaii Island to be a certified Firewise Community. Great work Kailapa!

Kailapa Firewise Community Hazard Assessment 11/3/16