Wildfire Prep Workshops

Ready, Set, Go! Workshop - Kanehoa Subdivision

Twenty-two community members discuss wildfire concerns in the area after our RSG! Workshop.

A few years ago, a brush fire swept through Kanehoa subdivision, nearly igniting a few homes along the edge of the wildland-urban interface boundary (WUI for short). In fact, a number of wildfires have threatened the community and with dry conditions on the horizon, community members are taking action. Over the past couple of months, HWMO has been working with the newly-formed Kanehoa Firewise Committee to plan for a series of preparedness and fuels-reduction events, with the goal of achieving Firewise Community Certification in mind. 

Currently, the State of Hawaii has only one Firewise Community - Kohala By The Sea, but over the next two years, HWMO will be working with 10 communities to help them achieve "Firewise Community" status. Being recognized as a "Firewise Community" comes with a number of perks, such as the potential for lower insurance rates and greater access to funding and assistance. Most importantly, the nationally-recognized communities gain a sense of citizen pride in work that in the end protects their community from the growing threat of wildfire. To go a step further, HWMO will be working with these communities to make them "Fire Adapted Communities," a concept that incorporates every level of the community (people, businesses, infrastructure, cultural resources, natural areas, lawmakers, etc.) to prepare for the effects of wildfire. 

Taking a look at the wildfire hazards in the area and what could be done to minimize them.

As an important first step for the Kanehoa subdivision, Pablo Beimler and Troy Scott met with twenty-two community members (and two HFD personnel) to give a Ready, Set, Go! Workshop covering topics such as defensible space, fire-proofing of homes, evacuation planning, and community fuels reduction projects. After the presentation, HWMO led a field tour around one of the resident's homes to point out potential fire hazards and what residents could do to minimize them. An HFD Fire Captain provided expertise on firefighter suppression capabilities in the area.

Next month, HWMO and HFD's Fire Prevention officials will walk around the neighborhood to conduct a hazard assessment update for the community.

If you're community is interested in funding for fuels reduction projects and assistance for achieving Firewise Community Certification, please contact us!

Kauai Annual Brush Fire Mitigation Meeting & Anahola Hawaiian Homes Site Visits

Annual Brush Fire Mitigation Meeting

Since December of 2014, Kauai has had its most brush fires in the shortest span of time" in recent history, according to Captain Daryl Date, head of the Kauai Fire Department (KFD) Fire Prevention Bureau. 

Captain Daryl Date and Chief Robert Westerman show "heat map" of wildfire ignitions in Kauai since December 2014.

The numbers don't lie: 104 wildfires this year up to June 9th, the date of the Annual Brush Fire Mitigation Meeting hosted by KFD, marks a milestone that has raised concerns for residents and agencies from all over Kauai. At least 60 or so are considered "suspicious", an alarming rate that has led Kauai Police to sound the alarms for reporting any suspicious behavior.

Derek Wroe of NOAA National Weather Service explains El Niño's potential to delay the next wet season.

To help Kauai prepare for growing wildfire threats, KFD invited Kauai's largest landowners to a meeting at the Headquarters in Lihue. Captain Date began the meeting with these stark numbers and an up-to-date "heat map" showing the areas that have had the most ignitions thus far since December 2014. 

NOAA National Weather Service representative Derek Wroe followed with an insightful look at the fire weather trends. "Lihue had the driest west season in the past 30 years", just one of the many indicators pointing towards a more active fire season. In fact, leeward Kauai is now considered "abnormally dry" (40-50% below normal rainfall during the 2014-15 wet season.) "El Niño has an 80% chance of persisting into the wet season," Wroe explained, "which will delay the onset of the wet season" and thus an early start to next year's fire "season." 

With these warnings in mind, HWMO's Pablo Beimler took the meeting participants through a Wildfire Preparedness for Large Landowners/Managers presentation. Mr. Beimler illustrated the basics of fire behavior and applied them to how those factors could be minimized through strategic management practices, including fuelbreak creation and forest thinning. 

After the presentation, HWMO reps Mr. Beimler and Vice President Sam Patten distributed Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) input forms to all of the landowners/managers, with the hopes to receive their valuable input by mid-July for the Kauai update. Following the meeting, meeting participants also placed stickers of their areas of concern on a large Kauai map that will go into the plan.

Adding input to our CWPP map for Kauai.

The last segment of the meeting involved a productive discussion amongst the landowners/managers and KFD officials. Each landowner/manager shared their wildfire concerns and mentioned any resources they had that could be made available to KFD for wildfire suppression purposes.



Anahola Fuels Reduction

One of the striking themes from the Mitigation Meeting was the overwhelming consensus that Anahola be one of the targets for fuels reduction projects. Fittingly enough, Mr. Beimler and Mr. Patten traveled to Anahola after the meeting to identify and photograph wildfire hazards along the east side of the island and meet with Anahola Hawaiian Homes Community Association representatives, including Councilman Kipukai Kualii. HWMO had a fruitful discussion over saimin to start the planning process for making Pii Lani Mai Ke Kai a Firewise Community/Fire Adapted Community.

Garbage dumping - a priority wildfire concern for Anahola Hawaiian Homes residents.

Anahola has had its fair share of scares over the last few months. One of the major hazards identified was an area where abandoned cars and trash/junk were being dumped in tall dry grasses. HWMO will be working with the community to help reduce wildfire hazards. In fact, Anahola will be one of 10-16 communities over the next two years throughout the State!

Ready, Set, Go! Workshop with Hawaiiana Management Co.

Lualaʻi at Parker Ranch - one of the many properties managed by Hawaiiana Management Co. Credit - Hawaiiana Management Co.

Lualaʻi at Parker Ranch - one of the many properties managed by Hawaiiana Management Co. Credit - Hawaiiana Management Co.

The Ready, Set, Go! wildfire preparedness message is important for just about anyone who is remotely impacted by wildfire. We've done workshops with a number of groups including Kaʻū Coffee Growers Cooperative, Waikoloa Senior Center, various Rotary Club chapters, and so on. 

Our latest workshop brought us to Kailua-Kona where we met with a group of resident-property-managers for the Hawaiiana Management Company on May 7th. The property management company owns a number of properties throughout the west side of Hawaii Island and across the State. 

As part of a morning of training for the managers, we gave a presentation about the Ready, Set, Go! program and how the managers could use these tools for their own properties and forward the message on to their residents. 

We had a couple managers jump on the idea of using Firewise native plants in their areas and asked us for more information on how to get started.

Banner photo above: Pōhinahina, one of the many Firewise native plants we promote during our workshops.

Wildfire Prep Day 2015

For the 2nd straight year, communities from across the nation gathered together to take action to reduce the wildfire hazards in their neighborhoods. We joined in on the national effort by organizing our second Wildfire Prep Day event at the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park next to the community pool in Waikoloa on May 2nd. Within three hours of the morning, we were able to accomplish quite a lot with our partners and community members, working towards the goals of having a heightened wildfire awareness and a well-developed preparedness skill set. 

The event started off with a few words from our Board president, Mike Tomich, highlighting the need for wildfire preparedness in the most fire-prone area in the State of Hawaiʻi. This was not new news to many of the event's visitors, who had experienced some of the largest fires in history first-hand. 

HWMO President (on left) Mike Tomich talks about importance of wildfire preparedness.

Nice, sunny day with moderate windy conditions - practicing situational awareness or "Set" of the Ready, Set, Go! Program

Following the opening speech, we held a Firefighter Meet-and-Greet where community members and keiki were able to explore the wonders of the fire engine and ambulance on hand. Hawaii Fire Department firefighters gave tours of the apparatuses and even let the kids get their hands on the steering wheel (though with ignition off, of course!) 

Keiki learn the ins and outs of firefighting equipment from local HFD firefighters.

Future fire engine operator?

Waikoloa CERT members soak in the sun.

After the tours, people were able to interact with members from Waikoloa CERT, National Fire Protection and Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, who all set-up booths for the event. We also had a Keiki Craft Corner where kids were able to color in new Kaleo the Pueo art and create wildfire prevention signs. 

The second half of the event focused attention on the Firewise demo garden. Tom Loomis, Garden Manager and Firewise teacher extraordinaire, led a group of keiki through a Firewise Plant Game Show. While Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative's Jess held a plant in hand, Tom described the plant to the keiki to help them determine whether a plant was a good Firewise plant, a neutral one, or a bad one. The keiki translated these into smiley faces on their score cards. We showed them a variety of plants including "happy face" plants like ʻaʻaliʻi, ʻilima oʻahu, and kuluʻī; "neutral face" plants like dill and ʻawa; and "sad face" plants like pepper tree and pili grass. The students were spot-on with their landscaping decisions, knowing that plants that were drought-tolerant, native, and wind-resistant were the best candidates for becoming part of our Firewise garden.

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative's Jess holds a sandalwood (ʻiliahi) during the Firewise Plant Game Show.

Getting a feel for kuluʻī and its heat-resistant silvery leaves.

Local HFD firefighters help plant various native plants like kuluʻī in our Firewise garden.

This led us into the final segment of the preparedness day event: a native planting volunteer session. Firefighters, keiki, CERT members, and others took part in getting their hands dirty (and rocky) by planting 75+ native plants to demonstrate how easy and enjoyable planting natives in the garden could be.

Wildfire Prep Day was a huge success nationally and here at the local level. We thank all of our amazing partners for their support of the event: Hawaii Fire Department, Waikoloa CERT, Waikoloa Firewise Committee, Waikoloa Village Association, Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, National Fire Protection, and National Fire Protection Agency. 

Getting silly with our amazing partners and volunteers!

Wildfire Preparedness from Mauka to Makai - Natural Resource Manager Training

Above: HWMO presented a thorough workshop for land managers from various agencies and organizations.

Hawaii Wildfire not only provide workshops to community members, but we also hold trainings specifically targeted towards natural resource managers. 

On April 10th, HWMO partnered with South Kohala Coastal Partnership and University of Hawaii Sea Grant to hold a training that outlined the basics of fire behavior and the tools natural resource managers can use to change fire behavior and minimize the threat of wildfires to their areas.

A number of different agencies and groups were present at the training, all interested in learning how to better prepare their lands for wildfire: UH Sea Grant, South Kohala Coastal Partnership, Hawaii County Planning, Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance, Queen Liliʻuokalani Trust, The Nature Conservancy, Vetiver Farms Hawaii, and the Kanehoa Subdivision Firewise Committee.

If you would like us to hold a training with your agency or community group, please don't hesitate to contact us: http://www.hawaiiwildfire.org/contact-1/.


Waikoloa Wildfire Action Team - Ready, Set, Go! Training

As a small non-profit located in Waimea but with wildfire prevention and mitigation projects throughout the State of Hawaii, we are constantly busy. That's when community support and action can be a real help to us and the entire community. 

Waikoloa is one of those communities that are heating up in terms of taking action in the name of preventing and minimizing wildfire threats. On February 28th, thirteen members of the newly-formed Waikoloa Wildfire Action Team gathered at the Waikoloa Community Room for a Ready, Set, Go! Training put on by Hawaii Wildfire's Elizabeth Pickett and Pablo Beimler.

Ms. Pickett and Mr. Beimler dove into the Ready, Set, Go! program during the presentation and then led the trainees out to the Waikoloa Dryland Wildfire Safety Park (just a short walk from the community room) to give a hands-on demonstration of the principles of being "Ready" for wildfire. The sunset tour excited the action team members, who took great interest in learning about the native Hawaiian plants in the garden and how they could integrate them into their own landscaping.

As a next step for the group, each member will work on reducing wildfire hazards around the home (and on the home) this month and reconvene at the end of March to show before and after photos of the work they have done.

If your community is interested in starting a wildfire action team like Waikoloa's, we are the people to ask for help! 

Banner photo: The exciting revival of the Waikoloa Wildfire Action Team! 

Ready, Set, Go! Workshop with Kona Mauka Rotary Club

HWMO's Elizabeth Pickett and Pablo Beimler traveled down to Teshima's Restaurant on November 18th to meet with Kona Mauka Rotary Club members and give a Ready, Set, Go! presentation. Around 25 attendees turned their ears towards the HWMO representatives who spoke of Hawaii's wildfire issues, how HWMO was helping reduce wildfire hazards around communities, and what each attendee could do to protect their home and family. We had some great follow-up questions and discussions after the presentation, as well. 

We'd like to thank the Rotary Club for being such great hosts at each of our workshops with them.

Banner photo: Around 25 Kona Mauka Rotary Club members listen-in as Elizabeth Pickett talks about Hawaii's wildfire issues.

Ready, Set, Go! Presentation with Kona Crime Prevention Committee

HWMO's Ready, Set, Go! message reached a new group on November 5th at Huggo's On the Rocks in Kailua-Kona: the Kona Crime Prevention Committee (KCPC). Thanks to Kona Mauka Rotary Club, HWMO was able to connect with the KCPC and speak about wildfires in Hawaii and about the Ready, Set, Go! program. Following an Officer of the Month tribute to Rueben Pukahi for his heroic efforts in the line of duty, HWMO's Pablo Beimler and Ilene Grossman gave a duo presentation regarding Hawaii's wildfire issues as a lead-in to a future workshop at the Kona Mauka Rotary Club on November 18th. Around thirty members of the KCPC, including HPD Chief Paul Kealoha, ate lunch and listened intently to the talk - many were surprised Hawaii's wildfire issues were so severe. Each member took home a Ready, Set, Go! Hawaii Wildland Fire Action Guide to take the next step towards helping reduce wildfire hazards around their homes and community.

Banner photo: Dozens in attendance for the presentation which took place at Huggo's On the Rocks in Kailua-Kona.

Ready, Set, Go! Workshop with Waikoloa Senior Center

Hawaii Wildfire visited a packed room of twenty-eight Waikoloa Senior Center members on the morning of October 20th to hold a Ready, Set, Go! Wildfire Preparedness Workshop. Planning Assistant Ilene Grossman filled in for Executive Director Elizabeth Pickett to help present with Outreach Coordinator Pablo Beimler to an attentive and engaging group. The presentation rounded off with a great Q & A that involved discussions about community fuels reduction funding opportunities and the potential to make Waikoloa a Firewise Community. We'd like to thank the Waikoloa Senior Center for a great opportunity to spread the word about wildfires in Hawaii and what we can all do to protect our communities from wildfires.

Banner photo: Pablo Beimler digs into the details of the Ready, Set, Go! Program in front of an enthusiastic group of seniors.

Ready, Set, Go! Workshop with Hawaii Fire Department New Recruits

HWMO had the honor to speak to this year's new class of Hawaii Fire Department firefighters at their training at Waimea's Hawaii Preparatory Academy campus. Around 30 firefighters, most of them new recruits, sat attentively as HWMO's Elizabeth Pickett introduced the group to what Hawaii Wildfire does and the breadth of the wildfire issue in Hawaii. Pablo Beimler followed by handing out Ready, Set, Go! Hawaii Wildland Fire Action Guides to all of the firefighters in attendance and going through what the Ready, Set, Go! program entails. 

The presentation was an excellent opportunity to reach out to a fresh new group of enthusiastic young firefighters about the successful outreach program which they will be able to teach to the public. 

Mahalo to our wonderful partners from the Hawaii Fire Department!

Banner photo: Attentive crowd of Hawaii Fire Department new recruits take part in Ready, Set, Go! Workshop.