3 Wildfire-Prone Regions of Maui Nui Covered in New Plan

July 27, 2016, 7:20 AM HST · Updated July 27, 7:20 AM
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Fire located along the Piʻilani Hwy in South Maui, April 16, 2014. Photo courtesy David Schoonover.

File image: Fire along the Piʻilani Hwy in South Maui, April 16, 2014. Photo courtesy David Schoonover.

Three new Community Wildfire Protection Plans for Maui County will be signed on Friday, July 29, 2016. The plans cover Upcountry Maui, South Maui, and all of Molokaʻi.

Three government agencies worked with the Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization, a local non-profit that coordinates wildfire protection activities in and around communities and wildlands, to develop the CWPPs.

David Smith, Administrator for the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife, Anna Foust, Emergency Management Officer for the Maui County Civil Defense Agency, and Maui Fire Department Fire Chief, Jeffrey Murray, will be signing the plans.

The CWPP process offers a nationally-recognized process to gather people living and working in wildfire-prone areas and put their fire-related concerns and proposed solutions in one place. CWPPs assist a community in identifying and prioritizing areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and supports communities to take action. The plans assess values at risk such as safety, natural resource protection, recreation, scenic values, and economic assets.

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Through a collaborative process involving input from community members, resource management and firefighting agencies, and a variety of other interested parties, CWPPs help bring wildfire hazard information and planning and action opportunities to all parties. These plans are becoming increasingly important in Hawaiʻi, which faces unique wildfire threats that are becoming more challenging due to increasing ignitions, drought episodes and land use changes. Wildfires have great impacts on Maui Nui residents and natural resources, affecting:

Daily life (road closures, traffic, evacuations, post-fire flooding, tax payer dollars);
Human health and safety (dust, smoke, water quality, burned homes and structures, resident and firefighter safety);
Ecosystem health and resilience (watersheds, forests, coral reefs, fisheries).

A collaborative process that involves representation from every level is critical towards mitigating wildfire issues. CWPP process participants included representatives from government agencies, non-profits, small businesses, homeowners, and other local organizations. These plans are already catalyzing communities into action. Some are now working with the Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization to become Firewise-certified. The CWPPs will also allow communities and organizations to apply for federal funding for wildfire prevention and preparedness activities such as public outreach & education and vegetative fuels management.

“In a time of increasing fires, the CWPPs offer a clear pathway forward to greater protection based on the priorities of people living and working in the affected areas. Signing into effect these three new CWPPs in Maui County marks an important turning point for fire prevention and mitigation across the County of Maui. It brings us closer to being able to implement critical wildfire mitigation projects over the coming years,” explains Elizabeth Pickett, Executive Director of Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization and lead planner for the CWPPs. “They will be useful tools for residents, land managers, firefighters, planners, and elected officials for helping make Maui Nui’s neighborhoods and natural areas fire-safe.”

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