REPORT FROM KAUAI COUNTY – The Kaua’i Fire Department held a brush fire mitigation meeting for large landowners, lessees and other stakeholders Friday morning at the Kaua’i Civil Defense Emergency Operations Center.

The meeting gave fire officials the opportunity to take inventory of outside resources available to the department in the event of a large fire, such as manpower, water trucks and other heavy equipment. In addition, the Fire Prevention Bureau reminded large landowners of their responsibility in maintaining firebreaks for open fields that are adjacent to structures.

“Landowners have access to resources and equipment that can be crucial in keeping lives and property safe in the event of a fire,” said Kaua’i Fire Chief Robert Westerman. “We’ve relied on landowners to assist us in past wildfires, and we want to maintain that relationship with them.”

Derek Wroe from the National Weather Service was a guest speaker at the meeting and provided attendees with a forecast of the Kaua’i fire season. According to Wroe, Kaua’i will experience a typical dry, warm summer which may become increasingly dry throughout the fall, thus increasing the chance of wildfires.

The Kaua’i Fire Department has already responded to several wildfires since the start of the summer, including one in Koke‘e that scorched over 200 acres of land and continues to burn since it began three weeks ago.

A fire reported Thursday near Anahola Homesteads required the assistance of local residents to clear a path for firefighters to get close enough to the blaze to control it. Despite the close proximity to neighboring homes, the fire was extinguished before it caused any structural damage.

“Something as simple as landowners maintaining a firebreak or reservoir makes a huge difference in controlling a wildfire, especially with such a largely agricultural landscape on Kaua’i,” added Chief Westerman. “We are grateful not only for their compliance, but also for going above and beyond to help us in an emergency, as they so often do.”

Since it can be costly to maintain large agricultural lands, the Kaua’i Fire Department discussed how its Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) could help.

Kaua’i’s CWPP was developed in June of 2009 and the purpose of the plan is to identify and prioritize measures that would reduce the risk of wildfires on Kaua’i.

Equally as important, a CWPP serves as the main requirement for an organization to apply for a Federal Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) grant, a program which awards funds to help implement wildfire mitigation projects.

The WUI grants are awarded annually and money is divided regionally. Companies large and small, including non-profit organizations and community groups, are eligible to apply for a WUI grant, so long as the business or organization is located within a designated CWPP.

Kaua’i is unique in that it has the only islandwide CWPP in the state.  Other islands have only small land areas covered by a CWPP. O‘ahu has none.

“We understand that to implement some of these prevention measures is costly, especially in these difficult economic times,” stated Chief Westerman. “We want to encourage stakeholders to apply for the WUI grant and secure federal dollars to help fund their projects. Any organization or group of organizations that receives money will help our island in preventing property damage, and ultimately create a safer community.”

The Kaua’i Community Wildfire Protection Plan was developed by Denise Laitinen and the Kaua’i Fire Department in collaboration with several stakeholders, including: the State Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW); Kaua’i Civil Defense Agency; the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; large landowners; farmers; and residents.

To find out more information on the federal Wildlife Urban Interface (WUI) grant, please visit http://wildahinet.com/fmp/wui1213.htm

For a copy of the Kaua’i Community Wildfire Protection Plan, please call the Kaua’i Fire Department at 241-4985.

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