Firewise Communities

Paniolo Hale Firewise Community Hazard Assessment

The assessment crew pointing out vegetative hazards on the wildland-urban interface of Paniolo Hale.

The assessment crew pointing out vegetative hazards on the wildland-urban interface of Paniolo Hale.

On April 1, 2019, HWMO flew to Molokaʻi, past the stunning cliffs of the North Shore, for a Firewise community hazard assessment of Paniolo Hale on the West End.

Paniolo Hale is an 8.75-acre condominium complex consisting of 21 buildings that include 76 dwelling units and a main office. Approximately 140 people live there, but nearly all are part-time residents (only about a half-dozen or so are full-time residents). Each unit is privately owned and ranges from studios to one or two-bedroom units. There is a resident manager and landscaping manager on-site. The condos are located in Kaluakoi in West Molokaʻi as part of a larger cluster of resort-style homes and vacation rentals along the scenic Kepuhi Beach (Paniolo Hale being the northern-most development in this zone). 

Across the gulch from Paniolo Hale due south is the partially-abandoned Kepuhi Beach Resort. Although some of the buildings are completely abandoned, many of the buildings are used as vacation rentals. Most of the grounds’ vegetation is still maintained, but the large golf course surrounding it is no longer in use and has gone fallow since the resort officially closed over a decade ago. Another condominium complex is situated due southeast of Paniolo Hale: Ke Nani Kai.

Captain Hanale Lindo of Maui Fire Department in front of roadside fuels.

Captain Hanale Lindo of Maui Fire Department in front of roadside fuels.

An abandoned golf course that once served as a wildland buffer, or greenbreak, for the community.

An abandoned golf course that once served as a wildland buffer, or greenbreak, for the community.

The assessment team taking a look at the wildland fuels.

The assessment team taking a look at the wildland fuels.

In early 2019, HWMO was contacted by the landscaping manager of Paniolo Hale for advice on wildfire prevention opportunities for the community. HWMO informed her about Firewise Communities and after a short turnaround, the Paniolo Hale neighborhood board decided to proceed in working towards Firewise Community recognition. As a first major step, a group of proactive residents and Paniolo hale staff met with HWMO, Maui Fire Department, and State Division of Forestry and Wildlife for the Firewise hazard assessment.

The assessment team first convened at the Paniolo Hale main office to map out an itinerary for the day, determine priority community areas to examine on the field assessment, and establish boundaries for the Firewise site. Following the meeting, the group walked to several areas to gain a vantage point of the intersection between wildland and urban areas. Along with these priority areas, the team also visited several representative homes to conduct a “Home Ignition Zone” assessment to better comprehend the wildfire hazards at the individual household level and identify locally-relevant examples of best practices for creating defensible space and fire-proofing structures.

The scenic Kepuhi Beach near Paniolo Hale.

The scenic Kepuhi Beach near Paniolo Hale.

Paniolo Hale is well on pace to become the first Firewise Community on Molokaʻi by the end of 2019! Mahalo Paniolo Hale!

Banner photo: view of Paniolo Hale from Kepuhi Beach Resort

Puukapu Pastoral Wildfire Planning Meeting and RSG! Workshop

HFD gives a presentation on wildfire access in Puukapu.

HFD gives a presentation on wildfire access in Puukapu.

An elaborate 3D map the Puukapu Pastoral committee assembled.

An elaborate 3D map the Puukapu Pastoral committee assembled.

Last year, Puukapu Pastoral became the 9th Firewise Community on Hawaii Island (and the 4th Firewise Community statewide on Hawaiian Home Lands). A committed group of community members from Puukapu Pastoral Steering Committee / Firewise are taking action to reduce the fire threats of the Waimea homestead area. Through outreach and education, community members are reaching out to neighbors about the importance of creating defensible space around houses, hardening homes, and having a household evacuation plan. The committee is also developing a well-thought-out, community-driven plan to create safer first response access and ingress/egress.

On March 21, the committee held a community meeting and invited HWMO and HFD representatives to give presentations. HWMO’s Pablo Akira Beimler gave a comprehensive Ready, Set, Go! wildfire preparedness workshop to the intent participants. The highlight of the night for us was to see an amazing 3D map the committee members had created (they were up till the wee hours of the night!) to demonstrate their color-coded road system proposal. We were very impressed with the level of detail and the immense effort and care the group put into this project. This community spirit is what keeps HWMO motivated to do the work that we do and support efforts like this. Keep up the great work, Puukapu!

Kohala Waterfront Firewise Educational Evening

Kohala Waterfront Wildfire Prep Day 2018

Kohala Waterfront Wildfire Prep Day 2018

Kohala Waterfront, a relatively new community in Kawaihae, invited HWMO’s Pablo Akira Beimler to join them for an educational evening on wildfire preparedness. In 2017, Kohala Waterfront became the 3rd community in Kawaihae on Hawaii Island to be nationally recognized as a Firewise Community. As an annual requirement, a Firewise Community must hold at least one educational event.

On February 11, 18 Kohala Waterfront homeowners gathered at the home of Firewise Chair, Marla Herman (Marla and her husband, Scott were amazing hosts). Pablo kicked off the night with a presentation on the Firewise Communities program, Ready, Set, Go!, and lessons learned from the memorable 2018 wildfire year in Hawaii. Following his presentation, Ms. Herman demonstrated what to pack in a “Go! bag” — the essentials that you need to evacuate early when a wildfire is in the area.

Mahalo Marla and the rest of the Kohala Waterfront Firewise Committee for continuing to raise the wildfire awareness level each year!

Kailapa Firewise Chipper Days 2018

This December, Kailapa residents took the initiative to thin and remove hazardous and flammable trees near homes as part of their Firewise Communities efforts. The community on Hawaiian Home Lands has been a Firewise Community since 2016 and has been doing great work to protect the residents and watershed from wildfire since then. As part of their December efforts, a chipper was hired to reduce the trees to woodchips that can be used for other projects. Nice work, Kailapa!

Hello, World!Kailapa Firewise Chipper Days December 2018

Waikoloa Village Firewise Green Waste Day

Mark Gordon, Fire Management Action Committee Chair, shares a laugh in front of the roll-out dumpster used for the green waste collection event. Credit: Waikoloa Village Fire Management Action Committee

Mark Gordon, Fire Management Action Committee Chair, shares a laugh in front of the roll-out dumpster used for the green waste collection event. Credit: Waikoloa Village Fire Management Action Committee

Waikoloa Village was on a roll this last weekend — literally. The WVA Fire Management Action Committee, chaired by Mark Gordon, contracted to have a large roll-out dumpster placed at the Waikoloa Stables for most of the day so that residents had a convenient location to dispose of yard waste and thereby reduce the fire risk around homes in the fire-prone subdivision.

The Firewise event organizers exceeded expectations, with the bin almost three-quarters of the way filled within the first hour or so — it was completely full by the end of the event. Over 30 people dropped off yard waste they had removed from around their homes, creating defensible space, which is an important part of being Ready for a wildfire.

Big mahalo to the work done by Steve, the newest Fire Management Committee member, Wayne, Mark, and the Waikoloa Stables groundskeeper who all volunteered their time towards assisting people in disposing of yard waste.

This event will help qualify Waikoloa Village for a 3rd straight year of having a national Firewise recognition. Great work everyone!


Waikoloa Village Firewise Green Waste Day 11/10/18

Waialea Community Fuelbreak July 2018 Maintenance

Waialea has been a Firewise Community since 2016, but they have been working towards wildfire prevention solutions in their small community for several years prior to then. The community fuelbreak, initially created through financial and technical support from HWMO, has been consistently kept maintained by the community since HWMO handed the reigns over. Take a look at the great work they did this July to keep their fuelbreak maintained as a last line of defense for firefighters to protect the shoreline community.

Photo credits: Bill White, Waialea Firewise committee chair

Waialea Community Fuelbreak July 2018 Maintenance

Puukapu Pastoral Firewise Assessment Review Meeting

The review team — mahalo everyone!

The review team — mahalo everyone!

Wildfire protection takes collaboration. We had a very fruitful meeting with Puukapu Pastoral residents, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Hawaii Fire Department, and Natural Resources Conservation Service representatives. Together, we brainstormed actions Puukapu lessees, with assistance from their partners, could take to create a safer Firewise and tighter-knit community. HWMO works as a hub to connect people because collaboration truly is the most effective way to see immediate and long-lasting results. Big mahalo to all who participated and for the residents taking charge to be pioneers in their community and showing real leadership and determination to protect the families and beautiful lands of Puukapu.

Kamilonui-Mariner's Cove Firewise Work Days 2018

Senator Stanley Chang and Janae teaming up against a particularly heavy tree trunk.

Senator Stanley Chang and Janae teaming up against a particularly heavy tree trunk.

Kamilonui Valley-Mariner's Cove is well on their way towards becoming the first Firewise Community in eastern Oahu this year. Check out their latest community work efforts which HWMO has been supporting, including through a $2,000 U.S. Forest Service grant we have provided for an extra boost of vegetation clearance to reduce wildfire risk. Livable Hawaii Kai Hui, Senator Stanley Chang's Office, and Aloha Aina O Kamilo Nui  have played critical roles in this effort along with the residents who have taken charge to protect their community from wildfire. We love to see this kind of community-based initiative and action!

"On June 23rd, we had a volunteer day at our Target Area 1, the end of Kamilonui Place (nursery road).  Some work was done earlier in the week by the women’s correctional facility volunteers.  Thanks to Ama for bringing them out to help!  On the 23rd we had Mariner’s Cove volunteers help clear what the women had cut down.  Sergio from Tropical Tree Services, LLC, and our neighbor in Kamilonui Valley, has been chipping as we drag haole koa and other trees out of the firebreak zone. What is left to do in that area includes weed whacking, treating trees so they do not grow back, and bagging any random opala exposed."

The community continued the work on July 7th by dragging all cut wood out for chipping.

The June 23 group hard at work.

The June 23 group hard at work.

Celebrating a job well done.

Celebrating a job well done.

"Target Area 2 is located on the closed section of Hawaii Kai Drive behind the Mariner’s Cove homes on Niumalu Loop.  This was also an area where there were several fires last year.  We now have a plan in place to get this cleared! The landowner has agreed to provide us with dumpsters.  Once the timing of the dumpsters and chipping has been arranged we will send out a volunteer work day reminder to Mariner’s Cove residents.  We are hoping all of these efforts will result in less fires in the valley this summer.

BIG mahalo to Sergio (Tropical Tree Service) for helping chip what is cut and curbside

Mahalo to Lenoard for helping secure dumpsters

Mahalo to Ama and the WCCC Aina Angels"

Photo Credits: Elizabeth Reilly / Livable Hawaii Kai Hui

Before of Target Area 1

Before of Target Area 1

Before of Target Area 2

Before of Target Area 2

Another community work crew hard at work!

Another community work crew hard at work!

Sea Country Firewise Hazard Assessment

The assessment team.

The assessment team.

On June 1, 2018, HWMO met with representatives from DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Honolulu Fire Department, Sea Country Community Association, and Waianae Coast Disaster Readiness Team, along with residents from Sea Country to conduct a Firewise Community Hazard Assessment of the Sea Country subdivision in Maili in West Oahu. Together, the group caravanned to several areas in the community to gain a vantage point of the intersection between wildland and urban areas. Along with these priority areas,  the team also visited several representative homes to conduct a “Home Ignition Zone” assessment to better comprehend the wildfire hazards at the individual lot level and identify locally-relevant examples of best practices for creating defensible space and fire-proofing structures.

The community of Sea Country is at a high risk for wildfires due to its high winds, history of nearby human-caused ignitions, location on the wildland-urban interface, and prevalence of fire-prone vegetation. By conducting the assessment, Sea Country will be one step closer to becoming a Firewise Community.

Sea Country Firewise Hazard Assessment 6/1/18


Kohala Waterfront Firewise Wildfire Prep Day 2018

Kohala Waterfront became one of eleven nationally-recognized Firewise Communities in Hawaii after a group of community members came together to spread awareness around wildfires and reduced wildfire risks in the neighborhood. Each year, a Firewise Community has to put in an equivalent of $24.14 per dwelling unit and complete at least one outreach event or work day. Over a dozen Kohala Waterfront community members came out to remove flammable vegetation along the border of their community (on the highway side where ignitions are the highest) to celebrate national Community Wildfire Preparedness Day. They pruned trees and hauled green waste to a dumpster they rented using grant money awarded by State Farm through the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). 

Resident volunteers and Cesar Gellido of Saws & Slaws get ready to prune a tree to reduce ladder fuels. Credit: Marla Herman.

Resident volunteers and Cesar Gellido of Saws & Slaws get ready to prune a tree to reduce ladder fuels. Credit: Marla Herman.

Cesar Gellido trains a resident on saw use and safety. Check out the progress they made!

Cesar Gellido trains a resident on saw use and safety. Check out the progress they made!

Firefighters from Hawaii Fire Department give encouragement and thanks to community members who were hard at work all morning for Community Wildfire Preparedness Day.

Firefighters from Hawaii Fire Department give encouragement and thanks to community members who were hard at work all morning for Community Wildfire Preparedness Day.

Mahalo (left to right) Tom Welle of NFPA, Cesar Gellido of Saws & Slaws, and Emily Troisi of FAC Learning Network, for coming out to support Kohala Waterfront's efforts!

Mahalo (left to right) Tom Welle of NFPA, Cesar Gellido of Saws & Slaws, and Emily Troisi of FAC Learning Network, for coming out to support Kohala Waterfront's efforts!

The volunteers also had help from one of the speakers of the Hawaii Wildfire Summit who was visiting from Colorado and representing a community organization called Saws & Slaws. Cesar Gellido, who coordinates the community group that trains residents in Colorado on chainsaw use and safety for the purpose of flammable vegetation removal, generously put in the time and effort to prune trees in the community and train some volunteers on saw safety. HWMO's Community Outreach Coordinator and statewide Firewise coordinator, Pablo Akira Beimler, linked up with Hawaii Wildfire Summit speakers Emily Troisi, from Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network, and Tom Welle, from NFPA to visit the community work day and offer encouragement and thanks for the volunteers' efforts. As a pleasant surprise to the community members, a couple Hawaii Fire Department engines stopped by the event. Firefighters from HFD shook hands with the community members and offered their encouragement and thanks, as well. 

Keep up the great work, Kohala Waterfront! Credit: Marla Herman.

Keep up the great work, Kohala Waterfront! Credit: Marla Herman.

Kohala Waterfront Firewise Wildfire Prep Day 5/5/18