LAHAINA - The Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, in collaboration with the West Maui Fire Task Force, will hold community input meetings to help develop a West Maui-focused Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).
Meetings are scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 22, at Lahaina Civic Center from 1 to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.; Thursday, Jan. 23, at Wailuku Community Center from 1 to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday, Jan. 28, in the Kapalua Village Center Conference Room from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.; and Wednesday, Jan. 29, at Waihee Elementary School from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
According to the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO), in West Maui, wildfires impact daily life (road closures, traffic, evacuations, post-fire flooding, taxpayer dollars), human health and safety (dust, smoke, water quality, burned homes and structures, resident and firefighter safety) and ecosystem health and resilience (watersheds, forests, coral reefs and fisheries).
The CWPP process relies on community input for preparing and protecting fire-prone areas from wildfires.
The West Maui CWPP meetings will identify and prioritize projects to reduce the threat of wildfire to West Maui communities.
The area covered in the CWPP spans all of West Maui. All full- and part-time residents are encouraged to attend the meetings.
Lance De Silva, Maui forest management supervisor with the state Department of Land & Natural Resources' Division of Forestry and Wildlife, emphasized that a CWPP isn't just another federal study.
"A CWPP is a community-based 'roots' process to outline wildfire risks to a community and to catalyze projects that can reduce those risks. In West Maui, we need to reduce our risks from mauka to makai. This is an important opportunity for communities to have a say over the priorities in the plan and to seek funds for the wildfire mitigation projects that residents themselves identify. Invest your time to protect your investments."
Elizabeth Pickett, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization executive director, said "CWPPs are meant to tie into existing or planned projects. Many communities are developing disaster plans or long-range community plans, and the CWPP is meant to complement those plans.
"It will be a useful tool for community members to help make West Maui's neighborhoods and natural areas fire-safe. Wildfires tie into many natural resource, municipal and community issues, so this is an important opportunity for communities to learn, have their voices heard and get involved."
A planning tool for communities, CWPPs have become a prerequisite to receive federal funding for wildfire protection projects.
A CWPP assists a community in identifying and prioritizing areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and supports communities to take action.
The plan assesses values at risk such as safety, natural resource protection, recreation, scenic values and economic issues.
CWPPs are a collaborative effort with input from community members, firefighting agencies and related organizations.
These plans bring wildfire hazard information and planning/action opportunities to all who are affected, making it possible to more effectively address wildfires.
As drought episodes increase - and land use continues to change - working at all levels to mitigate wildfire is becoming essential, according to the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization.
HWMO, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and natural resources from wildfire, will facilitate the meetings. Its partners include the Maui County Fire Department, Division of Forestry and Wildlife, West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership, National Park Service, University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension, large landowners, ranchers, scientists and community members. Visit www.hawaiiwildfire.org for information.