Hawaii nonprofit works directly with private homeowners to reduce wildfire risk
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the recovery process moves forward on Maui, a local nonprofit is working to mitigate the risk of fires statewide — in part, by working directly with homeowners.
Over the last two decades, the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization has been analyzing risk and monitoring the areas most susceptible to brush fires. It’s work that takes on heightened importance in the wake of the Lahaina disaster.
And with El Nino conditions of higher temperatures and low rainfall forecasted to last longer into the year, the potential for danger remains.
“It’s gonna extend into a dry winter, which then connects into our next summer,” sad Hawaii Wildfire co-Executive Director Elizabeth Pickett. “That’s where we really have to be doing the parts we have control over on a day to day basis, for this extended period of time.”
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Pickett says over 75% of fires are accidentally started by humans — risk that’s higher with dry conditions.
While erasing fire danger in thousands of acres statewide is a near impossible task, she says long-term mitigation starts with sound housing development.
“We need to be really focused on retro fitting and assisting our communities to get their secondary ingress/egress developed,” Pickett said.
“Moving forward, we need our subdivisions designed with fire safety in mind, so we have two ways in and out, so that we have adequate water infrastructure.”
For the last year, the group has helped residents take steps toward prevention, offering free property assessments where trained volunteers analyze potential hazards and they’ve examined hundreds of homes.
“It’s very systematic and there’s a lot of education and discussion that goes on to talk about what could be done to better protect the home and yard,” Pickett said. “Then a report is generated too, so that folks have that to use as they continue in their risk reduction efforts.”
Much of their work is funded through grants and donations.
To contribute or schedule an assessment, visit hawaiiwildfire.org
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