HWMO fills a niche even in training firefighters on wildfire prevention and mitigation strategies. On June 30, HWMO’s Pablo Beimler gave a presentation to twenty-or-so new Hawaiʻi Fire Department recruits. Pablo began by playing a video we produced last year on how wildfires impact our coastlines (watch below). Following the video, he dove into the various programs that HWMO used to teach residents and large landowners about wildfire prevention and protection: Ready, Set, Go!, Firewise Communities, and Wildfire Lookout! We thank Captain Bill Bergin and the rest of HFD for the opportunity to speak to a new class of brave firefighters.
Hawaiʻi Kai residents have been on edge since the beginning of the year — over a dozen fires have been started near communities, one of which became a high-profile burn in Kamilonui Valley. Although most have been deemed suspicious by authorities, accidents can also happen (around 75% of brushfires in Hawaiʻi are accidental ignitions). With fire on the minds of so many residents, Senator Stanley Chang, Representative Gene Ward, Councilmember Trevor Ozawa, and Senator Laura Thielen worked across party lines to hold a Wildfire Safety Workshop on June 5 at Kamiloiki Elementary School.
HWMO had the honor of presenting an hour-long workshop highlighting wildfire readiness recommendations based on the Ready Set Go! and Wildfire Lookout! programs. We also worked to recruit people interested in being a part of Firewise Communities certification efforts. Our hope is that the fifty or so people who came out to the event will take action around their homes right away to create defensible space — but our even greater hope is that the community will start to come together for the larger goal of becoming a Firewise Community (or a couple of them).
As part of May’s Wildfire Preparedness Month, HWMO held a workshop for Waiʻanae residents at the Waiʻanae Public Library on May 24. HWMO’s Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, gave an in-depth tour of the Ready, Set, Go! program as several community members jotted down notes on how they might improve their wildfire safety around their own homes. An exciting opportunity is on the horizon for community members to get involved with — HWMO and the library are teaming up to establish a Firewise native and adapted garden around the perimeter of the library, similar to the Firewise garden in Waikoloa Village that HWMO helped create and maintain. If you would like to get involved in planting and helping with other garden tasks, sign up for our e-newsletter.
Special thanks to Sheryl Lynch who was instrumental in helping organize the event.
Banner photo: View of Waiʻanae Mountains from Kaneaki Street.
Twenty-seven members of a spiritual organization called Sukyo Mahikari gathered on April 9 to take part in a wildfire readiness workshop put on by HWMO. Held at the Sukyo Mahikari center based in Waikiki, Pablo Beimler, HWMO Community Outreach Coordinator and a member of the Sukyo Mahikari, felt at home as he shared about ReadySetGo!, Firewise Communities, and the upcoming Community Wildfire Preparedness Day events. Administrators from Sukyo Mahikari noted that it was the most well-attended emergency preparedness presentation they have had in recent years. Mahalo to Sukyo Mahikari for the opportunity and hospitality.
As peak wildfire season approaches, HWMO is committed to reach out to as many people as possible statewide about wildfire readiness. With stacks of Ready, Set, Go! guides, Firewise plant bookmarks, Wildfire Prep Day info, and Firewise Communities brochures on hand, Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, traveled to various parts of Oʻahu and Maui to present wildfire readiness information. From March 7 to March 9, Pablo visited Rotary Clubs of Diamond Head/Kaimuki, Kahala Sunrise, West Pearl Harbor, and Wailuku. In total, 57 Rotarians were reached out to, some of whom have followed up with HWMO about possible partnerships in the future.
On March 14 at Tutu’s House in Waimea, with a small group in attendance, Pablo gave a more in-depth Ready, Set, Go! wildfire readiness workshop. A couple Puʻu Kapu residents were intrigued by the presentation and were inspired to bring information back to the community and generate support for Firewise Community certification. On the last day of the tour, March 15, Pablo gave a presentation about Ready, Set, Go!, Firewise Communities, and Wildfire Prep Day to over 30 members of the Waiʻanae Coast Disaster Readiness Team (including keiki) (banner photo). As a result of the talk, several members were interested in linking up with HWMO and the local Waiʻanae Library to start a Firewise demo garden around the library perimeter.
Mahalo to all who invited us to speak and who listened in. We hope we have given you enough tools to take action in your community right away!
Getting a community engaged in Firewise actions in December, especially on rainy days, can certainly be a challenge. Yet, Waikoloa Village Fire Management Action Committee was up for the challenge and took it head on by holding a Firewise Forum on December 8 at the Waikoloa Village conference room. As a joint forum with HWMO, together they kept participants up-to-date about the Firewise Communities efforts that had been accomplished in 2016. HWMO’s Executive Director, Elizabeth Pickett, gave a presentation on the community-wide wildfire hazards that Waikoloa Village has and continues to face. Community Outreach Coordinator, Pablo Beimler, presented on the common wildfire hazards within close proximity of homes and solutions for addressing those hazards (i.e. defensible space practices and hardening of the home). HWMO handed out Ready, Set, Go! Wildland Fire Action Guides to each of the participants to follow along with the presentation.
Upon completion of the forum (Firewise Day), Waikoloa Village had officially checked off each of the requirements for Firewise Community certification. As of 2016, the village will be the largest Firewise Community in the state (and one of seven new communities this year)! What a year!
Kahikinui continued its incredible year of wildfire protection efforts on November 6, 2016. The homestead on the southern slopes of Haleakala on Maui is a small, but very active community that is on pace to become one of the first Firewise Communities on the island (and one of the first Hawaiian homesteads in the state). As one of the requirements, HWMO, Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership, and Department of Hawaiian Home Lands conducted a wildfire hazard assessment with Kahikinui Firewise Committee members. Together, they drove around the bumpy 4-WD roads of the community to take note of common wildfire hazards and good Firewise practices already being implemented. The greatest concerns were the high fuel loads on the highway, between homes, and in the surrounding wildland areas. Lack of water resources and firefighting access and ingress/egress were also noticeable concerns.
The Kahikinui Firewise Committee is already planning and working on multiple projects to address these concerns. With a contribution from Sempra Auwahi Wind, they will replace their front gate and remove flammable vegetation at the entrance of the community in December. The proactive committee is a great model for other communities at-risk of wildfires — even with the numerous challenges they face, they have persisted to take small, but important, steps to reduce wildfire hazards to protect their beloved home.
Every year, a new class of bright, young men and women are recruited by Hawaii Fire Department to join their firefighting ranks. For the second straight year, HWMO was invited to talk to the recruits during their training at Hawaii Preparatory Academy (HPA) in Waimea. HWMO's Pablo Beimler gave a presentation on the wildfire issues that Hawaii currently faces and the importance of getting out to the community to talk about ways people could prevent and protect their families and homes from wildfire. Pablo zeroed-in on the details of the Ready, Set, Go! program, which has been a great teaching tool for HWMO over the past few years. We hope that the new recruits left with a good understanding for what the Ready, Set, Go! program is all about and are now knowledgeable enough about it to share the program's messages with Hawaii's residents.
Every year, a spectacular bloom occurs that brightens Waikoloa Village. The Wiliwili tree showcases its beautiful orange blossoms every September, a bloom that is becoming more and more vibrant thanks to the efforts of the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative (WDFI). For years, the wiliwili populations have been hit hard by a number of factors including development, drought, and wildfires bringing them to the fringe of extinction. Our friends from WDFI are doing amazing work restoring the dryland forest where wiliwili trees once thrive.
To celebrate an early arrival to the blossoms this year, WDFI threw their annual Wiliwili Festival at the Waikoloa Stables on September 12th. A number of field tours gave visitors the opportunity to see the invaluable restoration project that HWMO has helped protect by providing fuelbreak funding and expertise. HWMO maintained tradition by having a wildfire outreach booth complete with giveaways for keiki, including new Kaleo the Pueo coloring sheets, a Keiki Wildland Firefighter Photo Shoot, and native plant lessons. The young visitors of the festival participated in a scavenger hunt that included a lesson about the fire triangle. HWMO's Pablo Beimler handed 3 pieces of a deceptively tricky puzzle to keiki who stopped by. They solved the puzzles at their own rates, but each one walked away knowing that the fire triangle consisted of 3 parts: oxygen, ignition (heat), and fuel!
At around 12:30 p.m., Pablo gave a Ready, Set, Go! workshop to about a dozen interested community members about the benefits of planting native and adapted plants around the home. Benefits included:
- Decreased maintenance needs
- Lower water bill
- Beautification of property
- Perpetuation of important cultural resources
- and Protection of the home from wildfire
Mahalo nui to our friends from WDFI for putting on such an informative, interactive event that featured the great work going on all around the island!
Even on the "wet side", wildfires can be an important risk to factor in, especially during long-periods of drought, which are becoming more and more frequent.
On September 11th, HWMO's Pablo Beimler drove to Kilauea Military Camp, located within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - right across from Kilauea Caldera, to give an hour workshop on how to prepare for wildfires as a large landowner/manager. HWMO was invited by our long-time partner, J.B. Friday, who is the Extension Forester for University of Hawaii CTAHR Cooperative Extension. Every year, J.B. holds a Forest Stewards multi-day workshop to "train community volunteers to take care of their forests and to reach out to their neighbors with good information."
Topics can include:
- Invasive plant species
- Good quality tree seedling identification
- County property taxes for forestry
- Soil health
Pablo stressed the importance of planning, especially fire management planning, in order to reduce the chance for a wildfire to occur and limit the rate of spread and intensity of a wildfire in and around one's property (through active fuels management). The worst plan is to not have a plan!