Conferences/Symposiums

Public Information Officer (PIO) Training for Our New Community Education Coordinator

Carson Magoon, HWMO’s recently hired Community Education Coordinator had the opportunity to be trained by several leaders of the Incident Command System world: Tina Boehle, Greg Funderburk, Lori Iverson, Mike Johnson, and Mike Theune. He spent the week of May 20th in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park learning all about the Incident Command System (ICS) that goes into effect when a disastrous incident takes place, and how to effectively disseminate information to the public during an incident.

Recording as much of what the Incident Commander says in this ICS simulation. Credit:

Recording as much of what the Incident Commander says in this ICS simulation. Credit:

Being able to accurately and effectively keep people informed in times of disasters like wildfires is extremely important in the process of evacuating and correctly delegating resources. In events of crisis and confusion, being properly informed is a basic human need just as food, water and shelter. If you have the right information, the likelihood of making the correct decision in times of high risk are much greater.

Class going through the methods of good media relations

Class going through the methods of good media relations

During this training, Carson was able to learn facets of communicating incident information including interacting with the media and community members through many different communication channels. One key takeaway Carson gleaned from this experience is that a PIO should never divulge information that is not totally confirmed to be correct. Only confirmed information that you know is completely accurate should be shared with public and the media. That being said, in times of crisis, if information is not being released promptly, stories will still be shared among people whether they are factually accurate or not. This requires Public Information Officers to be as prompt as possible when informing the public, but they also must be very careful that the information they release is completely accurate. Cases of non-factual information being given to the public can result in a public-relations situation that can be very difficult to remediate.

While a few more classes are required of Carson to go out on assignment as Public Information Officer during an incident, the information-packed training was an extremely beneficial experience for Carson and HWMO. As he moves forward with Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization in hopes of keeping the communities of Hawaii as informed as possible about wildfire threats, he will undoubtedly be able to gather, assemble, and disseminate information more effectively after the training involved in this course.

Kauai Fire Department Annual Brushfire Meeting

This past Monday, HWMO was fortunate to go to Kauai and be a part of an annual brushfire meeting held at the Kauai Fire Department Fire Prevention Bureau. This extremely educational event brought in members of the Kauai County Fire department, landowners, and businesses alike to discuss the status of wildfires on Kauai, the current risk level, and how the Kauai community could manage these risks. 

Some findings that were presented were astounding. According to Kevin Kodama, Senior Service Hydrologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), 2019 is already on track to be one of riskiest years yet in terms of wildfires as the dry season is already well ahead of the average drought cycle. This year has been identified as a “weak El Niño.” Rain has come down in large volumes at times, feeding the fire-prone brush that ignites very easily. These “leaky” phases of a weak El Niño do not last long and instead, long periods of dry conditions can persist, leaving many areas under “red flag” wildfire conditions (especially when winds pick up and humidity drops).

Elizabeth Pickett, Executive Director of HWMO presented our Vegetation Management Mapping Project at the meeting, as well. She did an amazing job showing the community what we have been able to create over the past few years. After working with over 200 large landowners to record different land areas, we have put together maps displaying management of wildfire fuel throughout the State of Hawaii. It was extremely beneficial to the greater community to learn about whether certain regions of vegetation are being managed, and how they are being managed to prevent wildfires. This information will also help landowners track down funding and knowledge to better manage these areas that have overgrown vegetative fuels. HWMO is proud of the fact that we are helping communities become more knowledgeable and prepared to prevent costly disasters from occurring. 

Elizabeth Pickett discussing HWMOʻs vegetative fuels mapping project

Elizabeth Pickett discussing HWMOʻs vegetative fuels mapping project

Kawika Smith from the Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) also presented on the various suppression techniques they use to mitigate wildfires on over 650,000 areas of land managed by DOFAW statewide. He went into the importance and methods of protecting Hawaiian ecosystems and watersheds from disastrous wildfires. 

Kawika Smith discussing county and federal assistance with wildfire mitigation

Kawika Smith discussing county and federal assistance with wildfire mitigation

There were many other individuals and entities that made an important impact during this Annual Brushfire Meeting, and we would like to thank everyone that attended for being there. Taking part in community events like this one help to make a real difference in keeping the communities of Kauai safe, as well as protecting the fragile ecosystems and watersheds of Hawaii.  


We would also like to show our deepest gratitude to the Kauai Fire Department for using their time and energy to put on such an impactful event. The amount of good that can come out of mitigation efforts such as this can help to reduce the risk of disastrous wildfires when the whole community gets together in the name of knowledge sharing. Mahalo KFD for making this happen.  

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.

Nahelehele Dry Forest Symposium 2019

Over the years, the native dryland forest ecosystems of Hawaiʻi have been severely diminished from a number of different causes, including climate change and wildfire. That’s not stopping a large collection of people working hard to preserve, protect, and restore these precious and under-appreciated forests. On March 27, Kaahahui O Ka Nahelehele, a non-profit supporting “the precious few remaining remnant dryland forest habitats,” gathered 150 people under the same roof at Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo for the 2019 Nahelehele Dryland Forest Symposium.

HWMO was invited as a speaker this year to share our exciting vegetative fuels management mapping project (many project collaborators were in the room for the talk). Addressing wildfire at the landscape-level and across-boundaries is an essential part of taking wildfire action to the next level. It’s an essential part of protecting and revitalizing the amazing native forests that are left.

What is a dryland forest symposium without some of our favorite native plant friends??

What is a dryland forest symposium without some of our favorite native plant friends??

The recent STEW-Map study shows HWMO is a top connector in Northwest Hawaii Island.

The recent STEW-Map study shows HWMO is a top connector in Northwest Hawaii Island.

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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Youth Prevent Wildfire Bookmark Contest 2018

Participants of the Hawaii Wildfire Summit voted on their favorite bookmarks based on three categories.

Participants of the Hawaii Wildfire Summit voted on their favorite bookmarks based on three categories.

As part of a way to celebrate the upcoming Hawaii Wildfire Summit and Wildfire Preparedness Day, HWMO met with middle school students from several schools and youth programs and had them participate in a youth "Prevent Wildfire" bookmark contest. Students represented Kamaile Academy, Kohala Middle and High School, Waikoloa Middle School, and the Malama Kai Foundation Ocean Warriors program. The artwork they produced conveyed several messages that they could choose from:

"Prevent wildfires to protect our ocean"
"Prevent wildfires to protect our forests"
"Prevent wildfires to protect our communities"

Students from Kamaile Academy in Waianae created their bookmarks during an HWMO school visit earlier in 2018.

Students from Kamaile Academy in Waianae created their bookmarks during an HWMO school visit earlier in 2018.

Ocean Warriors hard at work designing their creative prevent wildfire bookmarks.

Ocean Warriors hard at work designing their creative prevent wildfire bookmarks.

23 of the bookmark entries were selected by the HWMO staff to be voted on at the Hawaii Wildfire Summit on May 2 and 3. 

We are excited to announce the winners of the contest as determined by the many participants who took the time and thought to cast their ballots at the summit. 

 

Bookmark Contest Winners.jpg

Congratulations to our winners and mahalo to all of the youth participants in this year's art contest. Special thanks to Jameil Saez, STEM teacher at Kamaile Academy, and Elizabeth Pickett of the Malama Kai Foundation Ocean Warriors program.

WUI Conference 2018

Opening day of the conference.

Opening day of the conference.

HWMO’s Pablo Akira Beimler flew to Reno to join over a hundred other professionals working in wildland-urban interface wildfire issues, from fire chiefs to insurance agents to wildfire mitigation specialists from across the U.S. and abroad. The conference was a prime opportunity for HWMO to stay connected to the latest in wildfire solutions and with national partners including NFPA, Firewise USA, IAFC, ReadySetGo!, Cohesive Strategy, and Fire Adapted Communities. At the end of the conference, Pablo joined a Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network session, which gave us an additional opportunity to connect with others doing similar work in other parts of the U.S.

WUI Conference 2018

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

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

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