HWMO in the News

As Dry Summer Season Nears, A Community is Working to Prevent Wildfires

Team Rubicon volunteers out in full force to help create a firebreak. Credit: Hawaii News Now

Team Rubicon volunteers out in full force to help create a firebreak. Credit: Hawaii News Now

As a very fitting tribute to Memorial Day, a collaboration of people including military veterans from Team Rubicon, an international veteran service organization that uses disaster response to help reintegrate veterans back into civilian life, came out in full force to create a large firebreak around Kamilonui-Mariner’s Cove. The Firewise Community (the first ever on Oahu as of 2018!) of agricultural and residential lots in Hawaii Kai, has been working with HWMO for a couple of years now in an effort to create a more wildfire resilient community.

This weekend, as part of Wildfire Preparedness Day, we are seeing what it means to be fire-adapted: everyone playing a role to reduce wildfire risk. The Firewise committee consisting of local residents and farmers, Aloha Aina O Kamilo Nui, and Livable Hawaii Kai Hui organized the work days; Team Rubicon volunteers are knocking back fire fuels; neighboring landowners provided access to the land and green waste hauling services; residents are feeding volunteers; and HWMO provided a hazard assessment, continual guidance through the Firewise Communities process, and a $2,000 grant from the U.S. Forest Service. We are so grateful to everyone who is helping out to make Kamilonui - Mariner’s Cove a model for community-driven wildfire protection on Oahu and for the rest of the Hawaiian Islands!

From the Source:

This Memorial Day weekend, hard-working volunteers are helping out homeowners worried about the threat of wildfires. They started creating a new firebreak on Saturday near Mariner’s Cove.

With the help of a hazard assessment from the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, the community came up with an action plan.

With moderate drought conditions across the state, wildfire experts are concerned about this summer.

“During those El Nino periods, we actually see significant increases in wildfire ignitions, but also in the amount of area that burns so we’re defintiely very worried this summer,” said Pablo Beimler, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization’s community outreach coordinator.

“It’s like black and white, like a swarm of bees come in here and sort of take over, start in five different spots and just continue on down. It’s really amazing,” said homeowner Dick Johnson.

Restoration of Forest Key to Fire Control, Expert Says

Dr. Trauernicht gives background on the wildfire issue in Maui and across the state. Credit: The Maui News

Dr. Trauernicht gives background on the wildfire issue in Maui and across the state. Credit: The Maui News

Great article on the wildfire issue in Hawaii based on a recent talk by our close partner, Dr. Clay Trauernicht of University of Hawaii CTAHR Cooperative Extension / Pacific Fire Exchange. Also, important identification of the need for more funding for forest restoration and fire prevention by another close partner of ours, Chris Brosius, program manager of the West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership.

From the Source:

The causes of most fires are unknown. Out of 12,000 recorded incidents statewide from 2000 to 2011, only 882, or about 7 percent, had a determined cause. Of those, 72 percent were accidental, which also means they’re preventable, Trauernicht said at Wednesday’s meeting in the Pacific Whale Foundation’s classrooms in Maalaea. That’s why part of the solution is public education on the risks of fire and how to avoid sparking a fire.

That’s why it’s important to find ways to change the landscape to less sensitive and less flammable vegetation, he said. Statewide, non-native grasses and shrubland cover 25 percent of the total land; in Maui County, it’s 36 percent.

“Rather than trying to weed wack or spray to kill the grass, maybe you should think about a more permanent strategy, like planting trees to shade those grasses out,” Trauernicht said. “In other words, converting that vegetation to something that’s less likely to burn.”

“We can really only do two things,” Trauernicht explained. “We can target ignitions . . . and the only thing we have direct control over is the vegetation.”

“A lot of people think about jumping right into fuels management,” he said. “One of the big things is just having access and safer conditions and water for firefighters. So I think some of the more immediate things is ensuring they have the safest conditions.”

Wildland Fire Danger Elevated in Hawaii with Drought in Forecast

Hualalai and Puu Anahulu Fuels.JPG

From the Source:

For Hawaii, El Nino often translates into summer moisture followed by winter drought.

Drought conditions will be increasingly prevalent in the coming decades, said Clay Trauernicht, UH-Manoa wildland fire specialist and author of a study that examined how climate change will affect wildfires in Hawaii and tropical areas around the world.

The paper, published in Science of the Total Environment, not only discusses the effects of climate change on fire, but demonstrates how tracking rainfall patterns year to year can help better forecast near-term wildfire risk, including the danger that excess rainfall in advance of drought can pose to Hawaii’s vulnerable grasslands.

As for the current fire danger, Trauernicht said environmental conditions are quite similar right now to the period right before August, when a string of storms built up the fuel load and the drying islands were struck by a rash of wildland fires that burned nearly 30,000 acres.



Elizabeth Pickett, executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, said most people don’t realize the scale of Hawaii’s wildfire problem. Each year about 0.5 percent of Hawaii’s total land area burns, which is equal to or greater than the proportion burned of any other U.S. state, she said.

Pickett said 98 percent of wildfires are started by humans, most of them accidentally. People have to accept that we live in a fire-prone state and be extra careful to prevent fires, she said.

One common way to start a wildfire is from a spark or hot components of a motor vehicle. It’s the primary reason why Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park closed Mauna Loa Road.

“By reducing the number of vehicles in high-risk areas, the park can mitigate the potential for a catastrophic event,” the park said.

Pickett said there are a number of simple things folks can do: Park cars on pavement and never on dry grass. Keep yards maintained and free of debris. Be careful with equipment that could spark. Practice family emergency plans.

More tips can be found at HawaiiWildfire.org/lookout.

A Warming Planet Could Trigger More Intense Wildfire Season in Hawaii

Credit: National Park Service

Credit: National Park Service

Over the last several years, HWMO has prioritized adaptive measures such as Firewise Communities and strategic, cross-boundary vegetation management planning to ready areas for the rapidly changing conditions causing more and larger wildfires in Hawaii. The gravity of the situation is real with climate change, but there is so much we can do in our own communities to prepare for wildfires and other climate hazards. Learn how by visiting our Take Action page and the Wildfire Lookout! page.

Check out this excellent article with some of our close partners, including Dr. Clay Trauernicht and Michael Walker, who were interviewed and data that HWMO was instrumental in laying the groundwork for — the statewide wildfire history database we produced with our fire agency partners. Although sobering, it is great to see this data put to use for a better understanding of how climate change affects Hawaii locally.


From the Source:

In Hawaii, wildfires generally ignite during the dry season, typically between May and November, when it's hotter, drier and windier outside.

But models show that the drier leeward areas, where fires are more frequent, will see even less rainfall as a result of climate change, exacerbating drought conditions and expanding the length of Hawaii's dry season.

That means more favorable conditions for brush fires to ignite.

And non-native grasslands and shrubs — which cover nearly a fourth of Hawaii's total land area — are highly adapted to fire, meaning they thrive when they burn and come back really quickly, researchers say. And the drier it is, the harder it is for forests to recover in those spots.

Hotter days could spell longer-lasting brush fires, meaning more hours for firefighters and greater potential for damage to infrastructure.

And it's only going to get hotter. A regional NOAA report estimates that in Hawaii, temperatures are expected to rise by 4 to 5 degrees by 2085 — under a worst case emission scenario.

"If you have hotter days, the conditions that are going to promote your most active fires — like the hottest, windiest conditions — have the potential to last longer for hours within a span of a day," Trauernicht said, pointing to the Makaha fire that continued burning in the early evening, when temperatures are normally dropping and humidity levels usually go up.

Fire Is the One Hawaii Disaster We Can Avoid

The August 2018 wildfires in Waianae Valley. Credit: Clay Trauernicht

The August 2018 wildfires in Waianae Valley. Credit: Clay Trauernicht

An excellent article by Dr. Clay Trauernicht, wildland fire specialist of University of Hawaii CTAHR Cooperative Extension and Pacific Fire Exchange.

Not only does he explain why wildfires in Hawaii have burned 30,000 acres in August 2018, (more than double the annual average), but that it was predictable and there is much people can do to prevent wildfires. Dr. Trauernicht specifically sites the Wildfire LOOKOUT! tips for wildfire prevention.

To learn more about what you can do to protect your home and community from wildfire, visit HawaiiWildfire.org/lookout

From the Source:

Vegetation may be the most problematic issue facing fire management in Hawaii. Simply put, our communities and forests now exist amid an ocean of fire-prone grasslands and shrublands — about a million acres statewide. This is mostly a consequence of benign neglect as the value of real estate outweighs the value of maintaining production landscapes. Our agricultural and ranching footprint has declined by more than 60 percent across the state….

So what can we do about it? Awareness and education is the first step. Multiple state and county agencies and non-profits are working on this via the Hawaii Wildfire Lookout! Campaign, spearheaded by the Department of Land and Natural Resources and Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization. Fire prevention education can reduce accidental fires. Homes can be “hardened” to reduce the risk of loss. Communities can become “firewise” and organize to take actions such as increasing access for firefighters and reducing hazardous fuels near homes.

Vegetation is in some sense the simplest issue to tackle because it is the only fire hazard we can directly manage.  Yet it is also the most challenging due to the scale of the problem — the million acres of grasslands and shrublands across the state. There are multiple solutions for reducing risk in these fuels: fuel breaks, targeted grazing, prescribed fire, the restoration of agricultural and native ecosystems. There are also regulatory measures that can help such as firewise building and development codes.

Check out this letter to the editor from a former Firewise Co-Chair for Launiupoko, Ms. Linda Jenkins, who talks about their Firewise outreach efforts as a pathway forward.

”We completed assessments and provided all our neighbors with tips on how to make their homes and properties fire wise. An extensive public education campaign was conducted and we received our Firewise certification. We circulated tips on how to build a home and lay out a property to reduce fire risk. We also circulated tips on how to make your existing property and already built home safer.

This was successful in that many people made simple changes to their properties. I was also on the board at Makila and we maintained the sides of the bike path to create a fire break and kept our grass verges green.”

Drought in West Hawaii Increases Risk of Wildfires Running Rampant Already

"North Kona, seen from the Highway 190 scenic lookout, is brown and dry from the ongoing drought." (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

"North Kona, seen from the Highway 190 scenic lookout, is brown and dry from the ongoing drought." (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

Did you know 99 percent of wildfires in Hawaii are started by people? This West Hawaii Today article written by reporter Max Dible, explores the effects of drought on wildfire. 

Check out HawaiiWildfire.org/lookout for tips on what you can do to help protect your home and family from wildfire.

From the Source:

Tamara Hynd, program and operations assistant with the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, said wildfires have already burned through roughly 34,000 acres across the state, more than double the yearly average of 17,000 with more than four months of a dry year yet to go.

“Drought always plays a factor because the longer it goes on, the more intense it gets,” she said. “Your larger fuels begin to dry out more and more.”

Some advice she offered to mitigate risk is to avoid parking on dry grass because heat from exhaust systems can ignite it, or to keep heavy machinery like welding equipment and weed whackers away from dry areas, as such work can result in sparks that start fires.

Hynd said it was repair to heavy equipment that was the catalyst for the wildfire that ignited in Volcano earlier this month.

People who keep their grass short, their rain gutters free of debris and who have a water source and/or fire extinguisher on hand are also less likely to cause accidental wildfires, she said.

The Conversation: Fire Campaign - Look Out for Wildfires!

Credit: Flickr

Credit: Flickr

Check out our Executive Director, Elizabeth Pickett, on Hawaii's popular radio program The Conversation talk about Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization spearheading a messaging campaign called Wildfire LOOKOUT!

From the Source:

This has been a wild few weeks. We are talking wildfires...from California to Oahu’s west side, to the Big Island where firefighters are still working to protect special ecological areas, cultural heritage sites from being destroyed. A management team from California which has been helping the National Park Service as most of the blaze is within park boundaries.  This week the Hawaii Wildfire organization is launching a campaign to get the public to take steps now to prevent the start a wildfire.

Earth Day at PTA

“Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization's Pablo Beimler, right explains the effects of wildfires to Connections Public Charter School students Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)”

“Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization's Pablo Beimler, right explains the effects of wildfires to Connections Public Charter School students Friday at Pohakuloa Training Area's Earth Day. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)”

From the Source:

All students from all schools, as well as the general public, were invited to the military training area for the opportunity to see how PTA cares for the multitude of resources within the 210-square-mile area, he said.

“We want to educate people on what we do take care of the resources,” he said.

According to Marquez, the Army’s contracted Natural and Cultural Resources Program has more than 40 staffers who monitor 26 threatened and endangered species and more than 1,200 cultural sites.

In addition to PTA’s stations, about a dozen local businesses and organizations — including Bike Works, Blue Planet Research, W.M. Keck Observatory and Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization — took part.

Wai Watchers: The Vital Role of Volunteers in Watershed Health

"Dedicated Makai Watch Volunteer James Heacock (clipboard) has been doing surveys for 10 years. Here, he surveys the coast with fisherman Kawika Auld." Photo courtesy of Christine Shepard

"Dedicated Makai Watch Volunteer James Heacock (clipboard) has been doing surveys for 10 years. Here, he surveys the coast with fisherman Kawika Auld." Photo courtesy of Christine Shepard

What does it take to protect an entire watershed? Collaboration, collaboration, collaboration. Great feature in Ke Ola Magazine highlighting South Kohala Coastal Partnership efforts - we are proud to be a part of such a solid partnership!

From the Source:

The South Kohala Coastal Partnership is composed of over 70 participants including 30 state and local experts such as biologists, kūpuna, cultural practitioners, teachers, fishermen, coastal business owners, land managers, resort representatives, and more. Together they tackle everything from land-based sources of pollution, to unsustainable fishing practices, to invasive species. Community participation has provided essential people-power for data collection and projects supporting this work.

The reefs located at the bottom of Kohala Mountain reflect what happens at higher elevations. Over the centuries, events such as the historic harvest of sandalwood, the introduction of species like goats, overgrazing by cattle, fires, and floods have converted much of the once-forested mountain into grassland and denuded landscapes. Without roots, ferns, and mosses to catch and hold the heavy rains, acres of bare soil wash downstream. This erosion buries corals in sediment and reduces the reef’s once-rich diversity of fish and invertebrates. Did you know that each grain of sediment can be re-suspended 10,000 times by waves, blocking light and re-smothering coral over and over? Agencies like The Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization and The Kohala Center are working in partnership with landowners and ranchers to reduce this impact up-slope.

 

Registration Open for Hawaii Wildfire Summit

2018_3_16_Hawaii Wildfire Summit_Schedule_at_a_glance_FINAL copy_Page_1.jpg

Mahalo to Big Island Now and West Hawaii Today for publishing information on our upcoming Hawaii Wildfire Summit.

From the Source:

Since wildfires are such a wide-spanning issue that affect communities, lands, and waters, the solutions require everyone playing a proactive role. The Hawai‘i Wildfire Summit is a unique opportunity to learn, share, and collaborate with others who deal with wildfire in their work and communities across Hawai‘i and the Pacific.

This year’s theme is “Collaborating Across Hawaii and the Pacific for Summit to Sea Wildfire Protection.”

Presentations and workshops that one would otherwise have to attend on the mainland U.S. will also be a highlight of the event, offering a local option to connect to national-level programs, research and trainings.

VIDEO: Officials Warn of Fire Danger in Dry Season

Big Island Video News screen capture from October 19, 2017 video.

Big Island Video News screen capture from October 19, 2017 video.

Courtesy of the 40+ partners including HWMO issuing a "Wildfire LOOKOUT!" advisory. 

From the Source:

"State officials are warning that Hawai‘i fire danger is currently high across the state and will remain so until normal winter precipitation sets in.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources says the state has experienced persistent and worsening drought conditions since July, with wildfire activity ramping up over the last month. 'Unlike most of the U.S., fire season in Hawai‘i is year around,' DLNR wrote in a media advisory. 'Residents and visitors are urged to prevent fire ignitions from starting: be careful with equipment that may spark, do not park or idle cars on dry grass, and completely extinguish all campfires.'

'Also, a wildfire can quickly turn into a subdivision fire, such as the recent and devastating wildfires in California and other states,' DLNR stated. 'This can happen in Hawai‘i too, but residents can take action to protect their homes and prevent the spread of fire.'”

HWMO Highlight on the Conversation

Credit: National Park Service

Credit: National Park Service

Thank you to The Conversation on HPR for highlighting the wildfire issue and having HWMO's Elizabeth Pickett as a guest on the show! Peak wildfire season is not over (and in Hawaii, fire season is all year long) so stay vigilant, have a plan, and evacuate early.

From the Source:

"Hawaii has its own problem with wildfires, and each summer seems to bring a rash of fires that are mostly caused by people – some accidental, many of them deliberate. The Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization compiles the available data about each year’s wildfires."

Firefighter Chili Cook-Off Spices Things Up in Waimea

PTA Fire Chief Eric Moller serves their recipe to Connie Bender at the Chili Cook-Off for Wildfire Prevention Saturday at the Parker Ranch Red Barn. (Laura Ruminski-West Hawaii Today)

PTA Fire Chief Eric Moller serves their recipe to Connie Bender at the Chili Cook-Off for Wildfire Prevention Saturday at the Parker Ranch Red Barn. (Laura Ruminski-West Hawaii Today)

We are ecstatic to see that the Firefighter Chili Cook-Off made the front page of the West Hawaii Today on Monday, August 28! Thank you to everyone who made the cook-off such a wonderful event and successful fundraiser. You can also read more by checking out our blog post.

From the Source:

"The sold out fundraiser for the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO) was attended by over 200 guests who sampled and voted for their favorite chili recipe.

HWMO’s mission is dedicated to proactive and collaborative wildfire related education, outreach and technical assistance, project implementation and research.

Money raised will go to the nonprofit organization’s operating costs, according to Pablo Beimler, Community Outreach Coordinator.

Beimler said 25,000 flyers recently went out to students across the state as part of their school outreach, and coloring books are on their way."

The Conversation - HWMO Interview June 2, 2017

Credit: National Park Service

Credit: National Park Service

Check out HWMO's Executive Director, Elizabeth Pickett, on The Conversation on HPR! We are extremely thankful for the opportunity to share about wildfire readiness for 10 minutes on the air.

From the Source:

"With the hot dry summer months ahead, the fire threat, the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization is reminding the state that wildfires are nearly always started by people, regardless of intent."

HFD Suspects Arson in Recent String of Hawaii Kai Brush Fires

Credit: Blake Kinoshita / KFVE

Credit: Blake Kinoshita / KFVE

A recent string of brush fires in Hawaii Kai has been understandably making nearby residents nervous. HWMO will be taking part in two different community events on the week of June 5th to help address concerns and offer advice on next steps for community action. Mahalo to State Senator Stanley Chang and Representative Gene Ward for the invites to the meetings and for bringing attention to this growing issue.

From the Source:

"ʻWhat's being done in Hawaii Kai is totally unacceptable and we don't wish it on any community and that's why it's got to be stopped. It's gotta be stopped now,ʻ said state Rep. Gene Ward (R) Hawaii Kai.

Ward is organizing a June 6 town hall meeting where fire officials, police and wild fire experts will provide the public with the latest details on the fires.

'There are a lot of eyes and ears watching so whoever is doing this, they're going to get caught,' he said.

Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness in Kona Kicks Off Wildfire Season

Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness. Credit: Hawaii DLNR

Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness. Credit: Hawaii DLNR

We are excited to say that not only was HWMO's Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness a success on May 6, but it also received statewide media attention. One of the highlights of the event was the official launch of Wildfire Lookout!, a multi-partner coordinated statewide wildfire prevention and preparedness campaign. Mahalo to KHON2, KITV, and Big Island Video News for coverage of the event, and a very special mahalo to Department of Land and Natural Resources for documenting the day's proceedings and sharing with the media.

From the Sources:

"'In the end, all of us are impacted by wildfire. It’s just that some of those impacts are more invisible than others, so people aren’t quite as aware,' Elizabeth Pickett, executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, said.

Pickett says over 25-percent of the state has been invaded by non-native, fire-prone grasses and shrubs.

That percentage grows as fires consume native forests which are then taken over by those invasive species." - KHON2
 

"The importance of land and homeowners to be fire ready is the theme of National Community Wildfire Preparedness Day events and activities across the country today. At the Old Kona Airport State Recreation Area on Hawai‘i Island’s west side, Elizabeth Pickett watched as several non-profit organizations set up booths and exhibits for the first-ever Beach Party for Wildfire Awareness. Pickett is the executive director of the Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO), which with DLNR, and two dozen other State and federal government organizations and various non-profits are supporting the second year of a public and media awareness campaign: Wildfire LOOKOUT!

Pickett explained to people who dropped by the HWMO booth, that just because they may never have personally experienced a wildfire close to their home or property, that doesn’t mean they weren’t impacted. She explained, “Especially in our island environment the negative impacts of a wildfire in a specific location usually has detrimental impacts many miles away that can persist for years and even decades. You often hear people refer to 'mauka to makai,' and that effect pertains to wildfire. Once land is stripped of trees and vegetation it becomes much more prone to erosion and the introduction of invasive species and soot and sediment can wash from mountain forests to the sea where it can choke out life in coral reefs.'

Big Island State Representative Cindy Evans emphasized the need for everyone in Hawai‘i to become aware of these impacts and to do their part to prevent wildland fires. She’s seen first- hand the devastation and destruction, these often fast moving fires cause. Evans said, 'Even the loss of one home is one too many when you consider that with a little awareness, people truly can prevent wildland fires.'" - Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (picked up by Big Island Video News)

Advancing FAC in Hawaii: Increasing Awareness, Thinking Both Short and Long Term and...Goats?

Click to Read the Blog Post

Click to Read the Blog Post

In 2015, we began working with several communities statewide on grassroots-level community wildfire protection efforts, primarily through Firewise’s communities recognition program. Only a few years later, we’re happy to say that our communities are seeing some great success! Find out how HWMO and its partners are working with communities to advance Fire Adapted Community goals in the latest highlight on the FAC Learning Network blog.

From the Source:

"These recommendations have already encouraged Firewise committees to start thinking outside of the box. For example, two years ago, Waikoloa Village received a fuels reduction grant from the USDA Forest Service. The village used the funds to hire a goat-grazing contractor to reduce flammable vegetation on vacant lots. As phase two of the project, the community will be installing permanent fence posts to allow for more regular grazing. Eventually, they may transform these lots into a multi-use area where goats continue to graze and the community also grows citrus trees.

These communities are also engaging residents through outreach. A few months ago, the Launiupoko Firewise committee sent over 300 copies of ReadySetGo! Wildland Fire Action Guides to residents. This spring, they will be hiring a contractor to remove flammable vegetation along an established bike path. Kahikinui, a small homestead in one of the most remote areas on Maui, worked tirelessly last year to engage neighboring large landowners and various agencies in their Firewise efforts. Their persistence and creativity led to a collaborative fuels mitigation project that received funding from the Department of Hawaiian Homelands and a local wind farm."

Puako Among Seven New Firewise Communities in Hawaii As of 2016

Aerial photo of Puako community fuelbreak.

Over the last few decades, Puakō has had many encounters with wildfires, one of which burned down six homes in 1987. Increased human activity in the area along with more frequent and severe drought periods and unmanaged vegetation have been recipes for increased wildfire hazards and occurrences in the area. The 2007 fire prompted the creation of Puakō’s nearly 3-mile long fuelbreak with the facilitation of a U.S. Forest Service Wildland-Urban Interface grant from Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO). HWMO is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Waimea that has been providing the Hawaiian Islands with nationally recognized wildfire protection services since 2000. We serve as the hub of the collaborative wildfire efforts of government agencies, nongovernment organizations, and communities across Hawaiʻi. For more information, go to hawaiiwildfire.org

Some of the members of the Puako Firewise Committee who helped the community achieve Firewise Communities recognition.

In 2016, Puakō residents concerned with the wildfire issues in their community, came together to form a Firewise Committee that would work towards Firewise Community recognition. The NFPA Firewise Communities Recognition Program, which over 1,300 communities are currently participating in, certifies communities that have banded together to reduce their wildfire risks through a five-step process. HWMO is pleased to announce that, thanks to the efforts of proactive residents in the community and help from various partners, Puakō is now an official Firewise Community as of 2016. The benefits of being a Firewise Community include community-building, increasing wildfire awareness, gaining greater access to funding and assistance, and possible reduction to insurance costs in the near future. Most importantly, a Firewise Community is better protected from wildfire. Puakō now joins 6 other new Firewise Communities on Maui and Hawaiʻi Island that HWMO was able to assist this past year, making it a total of 9 communities with this honor.

Wildfires not only impact communities, businesses, infrastructure, native forests, and cultural resources, but they also affect our watersheds and coral reefs (check out the video HWMO produced in 2016: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=ZtsG5fP-Z9Y)...

Heavy rain events after fires cause erosion that sloughs off topsoil leaving some areas completely denuded and unable to support vegetation. Post-fire erosion fills streams with sediment, depositing it in the ocean. This sedimentation smothers coral reefs, massively impacting water quality, fisheries, and long term coral health. By reducing the wildfire threats in Puakō, being a Firewise Community also means protecting the area’s wai and kai. Mahalo to Puakō residents for all the hard work you put in this past year!

Fire Adaptation Strategies from Across the Nation: My Travels in 2016

Great to see such amazing work happening across the nation -- we are so grateful to be a part of this movement towards Fire Adapted Communities. Mahalo to USAA's Rob Galbraith and Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network for the feature and encouraging support.  

From the Source:

"Finally, I had the unique opportunity to spend a day with Pablo Beimler and the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO) on the Big Island in September. Pablo’s previous blog post captures much of what he shared with me, but I left so inspired by what HWMO has been able to accomplish with such a unique landscape (where fire is not a natural part of the ecology), being so remote from others and with limited resources. Their can-do spirit, willingness to innovate and strong sense of motivation and engagement has remained with me and inspires me to continue our work at USAA to further collaborate and support FAC Net members and affiliate members in their efforts."

Waikoloa's New Fire Management Committee

Waikoloa Fire Management Committee

Waikoloa is entering a new phase in wildfire protection with the formation of a new Fire Management Committee made up of four knowledgeable go-getters! As their first major goal, they are working with HWMO to become the largest Firewise Community in the State of Hawaii. HWMO completed a hazard assessment report for the village and the committee will now work on developing an action plan. We thank the new committee members for stepping to the plate to help protect the village from wildfires!

NOTE: The brief article is on page 3.

From the Source:

"WVA now has a newly formed Fire Management Action Committee. Team members are Mark Gordon (Chair), Wayne Awai, Bev Brand, Dave Faucette. The current goal of the Committee is to achieve a National Firewise Community designation for Waikoloa Village by the end of 2016.

On Tuesday, Sept. 13th 2016, members of the Committee, along with staff from Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, Hawaii Fire Department, Waikoloa Dryland Forest Initiative and the Department of Forestry and Wildlife conducted a Firewise Community Hazard Assessment. This involved conducting a home ignition zone assessment of 3 homes as varying examples of common wildfire hazards and Firewise modifications made to minimize exposure from embers and heat from wildfire. In addition, priority areas at risk of wildfire were examined by the team to determine what steps could be done to make the greater community more Firewise."