(BIVN) – There will be two events in Waimea this week that will focus on wildfire information and readiness.
First, the Waimea Community Association will feature “Wildfire Reflections” at its Thursday, September 7, town hall meeting. From the WCA:
Recent horrific wildfires – fanned by hurricane Dora and weather patterns exacerbated by climate change – have challenged emergency responders and communities here in North and South Kohala and devastated Maui. As all of Hawai’i grapples with extraordinary grief and horror, an outpouring of aloha has swept the state for those who perished and their ohana, and for those who have lost so much – their homes, businesses, schools, livelihoods, and more including Lahaina’s rich history and sense of place.
Hawai’i has been changed forever and residents have dug deep to contribute in small ways and large to help, and public and private organizations and individuals have committed hundreds of millions to support a recovery that will take decades.
“For Waimea and Kohala, coinciding with this shock and extreme sadness is a deep awareness of and gratitude for our first responders. Not diminishing the heroic efforts of Maui’s responders, our Hawaiʻi Island responders went above and beyond despite life threatening wind that kept pushing the fires across extremely dry land, sometimes even jumping the fire over them,” said Waimea Community Association President James Hustace.
“How do we honor and thank first responders and what are we learning as a community here in South Kohala going forward?”
Answering these questions, WCA will host its annual MAHALO First Responders dinner on Wed., Nov. 15, 2023 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Mana Christian ‘Ohana’s Kahilu Town Hall and everyone is invited. “But for now, it’s time to reflect on initial lessons learned,” Hustace said.
‘Wildfire Reflections’ will top the agenda for Waimea Community Association’s Sept. 7, 2023 Town Meeting from 5:30-7 p.m. in person at Tutu’s House and streamed live on WCA’s Facebook page and YouTube. Attendees will hear from a chain of community leaders involved in the federal, state and county emergency response as well as representatives from Hawai’i Wildfire Management Organization which focuses on community preparedness and prevention. Also sharing thoughts will be Hawai’i County’s fire and police chaplain who regularly provides counseling and other supports for first responders and who has already spent time supporting responders on Maui.
Beginning the conversation will be Hawai’i County Fire Chief Kazuo Todd and Civil Defense Director Talmage Magno, followed by U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda, who immediately flew to Maui to provide direct support for constituents needing federal assistance or who had lost personal documents in the fires. Rep. Tokuda has held federal resource fairs in Kihei and Lahaina that included FEMA, the Social Security Administration, the State Department for replacement of U.S. Passports, the Small Business Administration, U.S. Postal Service, the U.S. Departments of Agriculture as well as Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs. She will speak briefly about this experience including the visit by President Joe Biden.
Also in the lineup will be State Sen. Tim Richards and Rep. David Tarnas, followed by Cyrus Johnasen who is heading up Mayor Mitch Roth’s Maui Recovery Assistance Task Force.
A representative of Hawai’i Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO) will follow. Started right here in West Hawai’I, HWMO today extends its programming across the state and western Pacific as a non-profit that collaborates with many federal, state, county and community organizations – all to prevent, mitigate and plan for wildfire.
Included in HWMO’s extended network are recognized grassroots Firewise USA communities – neighborhoods that have committed to enhance wildfire preparedness of their own homes and neighborhood year-round. There are 10 Firewise USA communities in North and South Kohala and three more in the process of securing recognition. Current Firewise USA communities include Kohala by the Sea, Kanehoa, Waikoloa Village, Waialea, Kailapa, Kohala Waterfront, Waikiʻi Ranch, Puʻukapu Pastoral, Puʻuanahulu and Puako. Communities seeking Firewise USA recognition include Kamuela View Estates, Anekona and Kohala Ranch.
“HWMO started right here and expanded county wide, then statewide and now extends across the western Pacific as a leading edge model for being proactive and collaborative with wide-ranging stakeholders, informed by and in partnership with fire and forestry agencies,” said Hustace. “We appreciate them joining the town meeting to briefly share their thoughts about the recent fires and what warrants attention now,” said Hustace.
Last but not least on the agenda will be Renee Godoy, who works year-round to provide trauma informed counseling as the Chaplain for Hawai’i County Fire and Police, supporting this island’s first responders. To complement and support this work, she also heads up the Friends of First Responders Big Island (FOFRBI). This non-profit will be hosting its first couples retreat for Hawai’i Island first responders next weekend and will include several just back from helping on Maui.
There is no charge to attend WCA Town Meetings and everyone is invited, said Hustace.
As usual, WCA’s town meeting will be in person and concurrently streamed “live” on WCA’s Facebook page and may also be viewed “live” via YouTube by going to www.WaimeaTown.org for a link. The meeting will be saved to Facebook and YouTube for on-demand viewing thereafter.
Also, as always, questions are welcome – ideally in advance – by emailing: WaimeaCommunityAssociation@gmail.com.
Also on the town meeting agenda will be an update by Waimea Community Policing.
For more info about the meeting or community association, including the WCA-hosted MAHALO First Responders free dinner gathering on Nov. 15, and the 63rd Waimea Christmas Twilight Parade on Dec. 3, email WCA President Hustace at WaimeaCommunityAssociation@gmail.com or go to www.WaimeaTown.org
Following the town hall, a Waimea Fire Prevention & Resilience Fair will be held on Saturday, September 9, at the Mana Christian ‘Ohana’s Kahilu Town Hall from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
From the Waimea Resilience Hub:
Sadly, wildfire is on everyone’s mind, and our hearts go out to Maui. In addition to doing all we can for the people and communities of Maui, Hawaiʻi Island residents are being urged to think about preparedness for themselves, their families and community.
“Are You Ready?” when…not if…an emergency arises?
Months before the recent fires, this question became the focus of the Waimea Resilience Hub, a hui of 18 volunteers, and it’s now the theme of their upcoming community event – “Are You Ready?” Waimea Fire Prevention and Resilience Fair on Sat., Sept. 9, 2023 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at Mana Christian ‘Ohana’s Kahilu Town Hall, across from Kahilu Theatre in Waimea.
Everyone is invited,” said the Waimea hub’s volunteer Chair, Tim Bostock. It’s a free, family-friendly walk-and-talk event featuring more than 30 federal, state and county agencies and community fire safety and resilience experts.
“We have two main goals: to encourage everyone in the community to become better prepared and, just as important, even more connected every day and especially in times of emergency,” he said.
Among the interesting, timely table presentations will be an opportunity to check out a Starlink connection shared by Vibrant Hawaiʻi and Hawai’i Tracker. A Starlink system provides WIFI connectivity via satellite, which is essential when WIFI is down or you are in a WIFI desert. Several Starlinks recently were deployed on Maui to provide connectivity for residents stranded without internet access.
Other presenters include Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense, Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO) with their Kaleo Pueo mascot along with several of their 10+ South Kohala FIREWISE community volunteers. Also participating will be Hawaiʻi County Community Policing with Keiki ID, the Waimea Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), the Kohala-Hamakua Radio Club, Hawaiʻi Island Food Basket, Malaʻai School Garden, University of Hawai‘i CTAHR, and Waimea nutritionist Vivienne Aronowitz sharing samplings of delicious healthy shelf-stable food choices.
Joining the more than 30 presenters will be Pohakuloa Training Area and Hawaiʻi County Fire Department and volunteers with fire fighting and emergency response apparatus (aka vehicles), and the Daniel Sayre Memorial Foundation, which recently contributed a new emergency helicopter and another custom-designed off-road tanker, called a Bulldog, to the Hawaiʻi County Fire Department’s 9Alpha volunteer unit in Waikiʻi.
Information will range from how to prepare a “Go Kit” for emergency evacuations, to how to become a certified member of Waimea’s CERT Team. It also will include help applying for an EBT card, Kupuna Pantry, DA BUX or DA BOX and how to assist Kokua Harvest with gleaning to increase the supply of healthy fresh produce into the food system. There also will be assistance with responding to MedQuest redetermination paperwork. Give-aways will include twin packages of Narcan from the Hawaiʻi Island Fentanyl Task Force to have on hand in the event of encountering someone who has overdosed on Fentanyl, to kabocha and uʻala (sweet potato) seedlings from Malaʻai School Garden and CTAHR to be planted at home to ensure there’s a supply of healthy delicious food growing in your yard.
There will be an opportunity to sign up to receive Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense alerts, to custom designing a 3Rs UXO safety t-shirt for children. There also will be tempting door prizes – from a fire prevention weed whacker to a fire- and water-proof “Go Kit,” from a solar phone charger to a home fire extinguisher, from food safety thermometers and home-size fire blankets, to a set of hand-held radios, headlamps and more. Door prize drawings will be held every half hour and Maos Kitchen will be selling their popular grab-n-go Mexican street foods.
This event is organized by Waimea Resilience Hub (WRH) with fund. Members of the Waimea hub, who came together initially in 2019 to address emergency preparedness, quickly pivoted to pandemic priorities, helping distribute masks, PPEs, keiki activity kits, and COVID test kits, and assisted with food distribution and access to technology to support keiki during school closures. The hub has now pivoted back to its original intention of resilience and preparedness for the Waimea community.
WRH is one of more than 35 volunteer hubs across the island in partnership with Vibrant Hawaiʻi to increase community awareness and access to resources that build resilience and preparedness to social vulnerabilities and natural disasters.