Field Tours/Site Visits

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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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

South Kohala Conservation Action Plan - Climate Action Planning Workshop

Climate change is a serious threat that is already having a major impact in Hawaii, and there are no signs that the threats and impacts will go away. In fact, an overwhelming percentage of scientists predict they will worsen. The Nature Conservancy (TNC), NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCOOS), and South Kohala Coastal Partnership (SKCP) invited various partners who are stewards of South Kohala to discuss climate change threats, impacts, and solutions for 3 days at Anna’s Ranch in Waimea from January 23-25. Using climate change as a framework to update the South Kohala Conservation Action Plan, an effort that started in 2010, the workshop pinpointed six major climate threats that could have a big impact for South Kohala’s coastal and marine resources. 

Teams discuss their rationales behind ranking certain threats higher than others.

Teams discuss their rationales behind ranking certain threats higher than others.

On the last day, teams shared their climate action ideas including coastal policy changes and reforestation strategies.

On the last day, teams shared their climate action ideas including coastal policy changes and reforestation strategies.

What are those major threats?

Warming of ocean temperature, sea level rise, ocean acidification, reduced rainfall, increased storms, and…you guessed it, more frequent and damaging wildfires. HWMO was invited to speak on the first day to talk about the mauka to makai effects of wildfire: fires in South Kohala have notoriously led to large erosion / flooding events (check out our video on the Kawaihae Fire and Floods for more information). Post-fire sediment that is carried out to the ocean can be detrimental to coral reefs and all who live off of them, including fish and us humans. 

View of Kohala Mountain and the watersheds that connect the vulnerable forests with the sensitive coastlines.

View of Kohala Mountain and the watersheds that connect the vulnerable forests with the sensitive coastlines.

Chad Wiggins of TNC points out mauka to makai connections, while we look out from the ocean towards the coast.

Chad Wiggins of TNC points out mauka to makai connections, while we look out from the ocean towards the coast.

Due to increasing conditions that are ripe for more frequent and severe wildfires in South Kohala, including warmer temperatures, decreasing annual rainfall, and increasing consecutive dry days, we could be in for more destructive land based pollution events that destroy reefs. This goes hand in hand with the scientific predictions of increased storms in Hawaii, which, after a wildfire, can make matters a whole lot worse for erosion and sedimentation and thus for our coastal and marine ecosystems. Check out our infographic on climate change’s impacts on wildfire for more information.

On the 2nd day of the workshop, we were part of a “mauka” breakout group where we ranked the threats of fire, storms, and reduced rainfall as contributors of coastal and marine impacts. Fire repeatedly came up as a major threat that needed to be addressed seriously in South Kohala. 

In order to think BIG about action planning for South Kohala, workshop attendees were invited to join in on an afternoon of sailing from Kawaihae Harbor to Puako. The sailboat was graciously donated by Maile Charters for the purpose of building stronger connections between the various agencies and organizations involved with SKCP and to look at the connectedness of South Kohala from the vantage point of being on the water. As an added bonus, whales and dolphins frequently visited the boat and we were able to swim around Puako’s reefs to experience the beautiful coral and marine life that are critical to the health of our ecosystems and communities. Before an epic sunset, HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, performed spoken word about the Hokulea’s important message that we need to work together as one “Island Earth” and work with Mother Nature rather than against her.

Setting sails for an adventure experienced by various SKCP partners.

Setting sails for an adventure experienced by various SKCP partners.

Sunsets and whales an added bonus.

Sunsets and whales an added bonus.

The final day of the workshop revolved around finding solutions. Breakout groups developed actions that could improve coastal health and reduce climate threats. Pablo shared HWMO’s vision of having communities be buffered by native and Firewise living fuelbreaks, which would also help bring communities together. Better water management and increased water resources was also a key discussion and was ranked very high by the entire group as an important next step for South Kohala. In another smaller breakout group, TNC’s Chad Wiggins, Hawaii State Parks’ Dena Sedar, and Pablo brainstormed ideas to reforest South Kohala (ranked highly as an important next step) with the intention of reducing wildfire threats, increasing watershed health, and improving community engagement, livelihoods, and employment/career opportunities.

The planning area and what is at stake. Working together is the only path forward to build climate resilience.

The planning area and what is at stake. Working together is the only path forward to build climate resilience.

After three days with so many enthusiastic, positive, intelligent, and conservation-minded folks, we feel more determined to continue the important work we are doing to make South Kohala a more vibrant area, even in the face of worrying climate predictions. We are more resilient when we work together and that is a major reason why the South Kohala Coastal Partnership exists and is taking on this climate action planning process. We are extremely grateful for being a part of this partnership and look forward to collaborate with all involved to ensure our coastal areas, cultural resources, landscapes, and communities are safe from or adapted to climate impacts such as wildfire.

Thank you to The Nature Conservancy, NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, and South Kohala Coastal Partnership for inviting us to be a part of this monumental effort!

South Kohala CAP Climate Action Planning Workshop 1/23-25/18

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

Puako Reef and Tidepool Exploration

Mauka wildfires impact makai waters. Many people don’t realize that wildfires can have long-lasting impacts that affect our watersheds, drinking water, and coral reefs. After a wildfire, soils are left bare and especially after more intense wildfires, those soils can become hydrophobic or “scared of water.” Rainfall events that frequent our islands can wash away thousands of years of top soil into our waterways, taking along with it trash, debris, chemicals, and other pollutants, eventually smothering our fragile coral reefs.

In 2016, Maui had its worst wildfire season in many years. With barely any vegetation left in the burned areas to hold down silty soils, a mid-September storm rained down on the burned lands and carried trash and debris through our watersheds and out into the ocean.
Chad Wiggins points out species living in Puako's tidepools.

Chad Wiggins points out species living in Puako's tidepools.

On September 23, a few HWMO donors from the Firefighter Chili Cook-Off who bid on experiences at the silent auction joined expert marine naturalist Chad Wiggins and HWMO Executive Director and Malama Kai Foundation’s Ocean Warriors program founder, Elizabeth Pickett in Puako. Together, they explored Puako’s diverse and ecologically important tide pool and reef systems. During the tide pool exploration portion, they learned about the plants and animals that live at the intersection of ocean and land while identifying local intertidal organisms. For the reef exploration portion, the attendees learned about coral reefs and the current coastal challenges such as post-fire erosion that threaten them. Of course, we also focused on actions we can take to protect our shorelines, including preventing wildfires!

Puako Reef and Tidepool Exploration 9/23/17

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

Ocean Warriors Wildfire Lessons and Activities at Spencer Beach

Ocean Warriors learning about Rapid ʻOhia Death and how they can prevent the spread.

Ocean Warriors learning about Rapid ʻOhia Death and how they can prevent the spread.

Learning the fire cycle is key to understanding the bigger picture of how wildfire changes our landscapes. When a wildfire burns a native forest in Hawaiʻi, the forest does not fully recover. Instead, invasive grasses, shrubs, and trees take over and crowd out native species. These invasive plants tend to be wildfire hazards and actually encourage fire to help them reproduce. The next human-caused fire will burn these plants and burn further into the forest. And thus, the cycle continues.

Ocean Warrior scanning area for clues to previous fires, including charred tree stumps.

Ocean Warrior scanning area for clues to previous fires, including charred tree stumps.

HWMO demonstrated this concept through a fun, interactive game with the Malama Kai Ocean Warriors program run by HWMO’s very own Elizabeth Pickett. The youth stewardship program linked with us on June 13 as a group of middle schoolers from Kohala met with us at Spencer Beach in Kawaihae. By playing a game of “fire tag,” similar to “red rover,” the students acted out how the fire cycle impacts our natural resources. After playing the game, we took the students on a short walk along the Ala Kahakai Trail towards Mauʻumae Beach. This stretch of trail had burned numerous times in recent years, with less and less native plants to burn each time. We encouraged the students to look for clues that indicate that fires had burned the coastline. In the end, the students were able to look at a familiar area with a different set of lenses, or what we like to call “fire goggles.”

Ocean Warriors Wildfire Lessons and Activities at Spencer Beach 6/13/17

Wildfire Preparedness Month ʻOhana Day at Kipuka Oweowe

Preparing plants and field equipment for a day of planting and wildfire discussion at Kipuka Oweowe in Puʻuwaʻawaʻa.

Preparing plants and field equipment for a day of planting and wildfire discussion at Kipuka Oweowe in Puʻuwaʻawaʻa.

To wrap up a busy May of wildfire readiness events, DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife’s Nāpuʻu Conservation Project held an official Wildfire Preparedness Month event at Kīpuka Oweowe in Puʻuwaʻawaʻa. Each month, Nāpuʻu holds an ʻOhana Day, inviting volunteers to come plant a variety of native species, common and rare/endangered, in the lama-dominated forest restoration project.

This month’s ʻOhana Day was wrapped into Wildfire Preparedness Month. HWMO’s Pablo Beimler joined volunteers in the morning by helping plant natives in the beautiful, peaceful forest setting. As part of a potluck lunch, Pablo then shared background on the history of wildfires and fire management in the Puʻuwaʻawaʻa region. Others talked story about their experiences with fire in the area. It was great to spend time in the forest with good people who were all forest stewards and truly embodied Mālama ʻĀina. They also walked away with more knowledge on wildfires and fire preparedness, as well as Wildfire Lookout! and Ready Set Go! materials.

We thank everyone who participated in a fun and successful Wildfire Preparedness Month this May!

Wildfire Prep Month Ohana Day at Kipuka Oweowe 5/27/17