My name is Elizabeth Kiefer, and I’m chairing the new WIRCA Firewise Committee. As you know, wildfire season is a year-round reality in our islands. Like many of you, I was saddened and shocked by the Maui fires. The fires left me wondering, what would I do if a fire broke out on our hill?
We are lucky to have a great resource to help us help ourselves, the Firewise Program, which encourages neighbors to work together to take action to prevent losses. This program starts with a community assessment, where officials from the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO), the fire department, and other land experts take a close look at our neighborhood. They will help quantify our risk by looking at specific hazards. For example,
How much untended weedy land do we have on our hill that could ignite?
How many homes have landscaping that prevents fires?
What is the availability and source of water to fight fires?
We will hopefully have this assessment in January, 2024.
From this assessment, the WIRCA Firewise Committee will create an action plan of risk reduction projects. This could include everything from a day volunteering to clear weeds in the park, to educational materials for the neighborhood. After doing these projects we will submit an application to Firewise listing our efforts. Even having gardeners work in your yard and putting out your green waste bin counts too! Becoming “Firewise Certified” will help us to lobby the City and County to help in our efforts, as it shows that we are helping ourselves too.
As individual homeowners, there are steps that you can take to protect your homes and your families. HWMO provides FREE home assessments. We had our home assessed, and it helped us understand how to reduce the vulnerability of our house to wildfire and ember ignition.
I would also encourage you to check out the Ready-Set-Go PDF, which explains how and why we are vulnerable in Hawaii, and actions you can take today to protect yourselves and your homes. It even has a list of 27 native plants that can help protect your home from wildfire ignition and spread!
The more neighbors that take steps to reduce their risk, the safer our hill will be from wildfire. Please email me if you would like to help with the committee to get us certified, or if you have any questions!