Hawaiʻi residents taking proactive steps to combat wildfires

May 9, 2024

Residents in Hawaiʻi lead community efforts in wildfire prevention

Molokaʻi, Hawaiʻi, is known for its Hawaiian culture, sandy beaches, and high cliffs.

However, the island’s natural beauty is marred by the risk of wildfires, which have been a recurrent threat due to dry grasses and wild foliage.

Erin Peyton, a resident of Molokaʻi’s Paniolo Hale complex, has taken proactive measures to mitigate this threat.

As reported by FEMA, Peyton’s efforts have set a precedent for community-led wildfire prevention in Hawaiʻi.

Local actions against potential wildfires

After moving to Molokaʻi, Peyton quickly realized the fire risks posed by the surrounding environment.

She described her motivations: “We needed to take action.” Her community’s vulnerability was highlighted when essential firefighting equipment was stolen.

Peyton, drawing on her experiences from California, spearheaded an initiative to assess and reduce the wildfire risks.

The Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization was involved, offering solutions like creating fuel breaks and managing hazardous vegetation, funded by the U.S.

Forest Service and other sources.

Building a fire-resilient community

Peyton’s advocacy led to the Paniolo Hale complex being certified in the national Firewise USA program, enhancing their fire preparedness.

Since then, another 22 communities in Hawaiʻi have applied to join the program, motivated by the devastating Maui wildfires last year.

Andrea “Nani” Barretto, co-Executive Director of the Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization, commended Peyton’s dedication: “She did all this on her own as a volunteer.”

The community has implemented various measures, such as clearing vegetation and creating strategic access roads for emergency services.

Continuous effort and future plans

Peyton highlighted the ongoing nature of their efforts: “This is about a four- or five-year project of dumping the mulch on these access roads to really prevent growth.

“So, we will be watching them and maintaining them for a few years.”

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