Channel: The Kaʻū Calendar News Briefs, Hawaiʻi Island
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Ka`u News Briefs, Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014

This is parched Kalae in June when a range fire raged through ranchland. Following rainy weather and tropical storms in summer
and fall, grass is over head-high in many places, creating a fire risk for ranchers, residents and natural resources.
Photo by Isaac Davis
WILDFIRE EXPERTS met with fire department representative and community members yesterday in Volcano and Na`alehu and will host a public meeting at Ocean View Community Center at 6 p.m. this evening. They plan to update the Ka`u Community Wildfire Protection Plan, created in 2010 that helps protect the health of the community and natural resources from wildfires.
     Yesterday, firefighters noted that they have never before seen such a build up of fuel for wildfires across Ka`u, referring to recent rainy weather and tropical storms leading to overhead grasses in areas that are usually parched. Only a week or two of dry Ka`u weather could turn pastures and wildlands into a high fire risks.
     Organizers talked about wildfire buffers around neighborhoods, one example completed around Waikoloa Village on the westside of Hawai`i Island through federal funding,  just in time for the largest wildfire in the state’s history. Elizabeth Pickett, Executive Director of Hawai`i Wildfire Management Organization, said the buffer saved Waikoloa Village. It was created by clearing and mowing a protective zone around the community. Pickett talked about such buffers being put into the planning of communities ahead of their construction, with involvement of county approval processes.
More four-wheel fire trucks and access to water are needed
to help fight wildland fires in Ka`u. Photo by Isaac Davis
   Such buffers can be created in several ways, including ensuring there is grazing around the towns to keep grasses low or providing for regular mowing.
    Funding totaling $5000 has been set aside for Ka`u community projects, which require that a hui of at least four people make a plan for wildfire prevention and present it as a proposal.
    Fire officials talked about the need for more four-wheel drive fire trucks to reach remote Ka`u places down rugged dirt and lava roads. A community block grant could provide funding. Firefighters noted that some of Ka`u's volunteer firefighting units can reach remote places with their four-wheel drive fire trucks more easily than the county firefighters with their larger two-wheel drive fire trucks. They described Ka`u’s volunteer firefighters as well-trained and capable.
    A resident of Kalae offered an idea to make sure firefighters have more access to water. Owners of water sources on ranches and homesteads would be equipped with connectors – the fittings that would hook up their water pipes to fire truck hoses and water tankers. Firefighters said ranchers are very cooperative with firefighters using their water sources just so they are asked ahead of time. It was suggested that agreements ahead of the fires could save time in getting permission. It was also suggested that stations for water pickup for helicopter water drops be established, as was done in North Kohala.
     Community members presented problems such as unkempt empty lots and abandoned buildings next to residential areas presenting fire hazards as they are increasingly overgrown. A letter writing campaign to landowners was suggested. Pickett also suggested that Hawai`i County Council might consider implementing a law similar to the one in Maui County, which provides for fire inspectors to look for wildland fire risks and establishes laws with penalties for landowners whose property presents an unreasonable fire risk.
     Another suggestion was that a hui make a chipper available to those clearing brush away from their houses, a community effort that was successful in Volcano. Community members brought up education in schools, encouraging students to remind their families to refrain from throwing cigarettes out of windows of their vehicles and to be careful about campfires at such places as Kalae where wildfires can rage through ranch lands.
A 2012 fire in macadamia and coffee and eucalyptus farms, surrounded
Pahala. Photo by Julia Neal
      Firefighters brought up the arson problem and said the community needs to pay attention to clues to identify firebugs. They also talked about the powerline roads in the Wai`ohinu and Discovery Harbour area that have been used to dump trash, from animal carcasses to home refuse and have been the targets for arsonists.
     Hawai`i Wildfire Management Organization also met with the Ka`u Coffee Growers Cooperative, whose members said they were concerned about the difficulty of obtaining burning permits to get rid of pruning materials from their orchards, which may contain the coffee berry borer pests that are damaging the coffee industry. The coffee farmers are also concerned about windbreaks that could ignite during range fires. Some farmers cut down windbreaks after the summer fire of 2012.
   For more on planning to protect property from wildfires and to give input for updating the Ka`u Community Wildfire Protection Plan, see HawaiiWildfire.org or attend the Ocean View Community Center meeting this evening.
     Those who attended the Na`alehu meeting yesterday included Fire Captain C. Yamashita, Fire Equipment Operator D. Kierking and Firefighter A. McShane. To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

Taken at 6:30 a.m. this morning, the photo shows the lava moving downslope toward
Pahoa Village Road. Photo from USGS.
LAVA OOZED THROUGH ORCHARDS TOWARD MORE BUILDINGS this morning in Pahoa as geologists from Hawai`i Volcano Observatory continued their photography, their measurements and predictions. Yesterday, the flow took out an anthurium potting shed and spared a home. This morning, according to HAVO, the flow was going toward Pahoa Village Road at about 5.5 yards an hour.
    Two lower Puna homeowners who moved to Ka`u and have taken up residence in Pahala, with their piano and household goods in storage, said they are glad to be away from the uncertainty. They reported that volcanic fumes, anxiety of Puna people and the nervousness about their future prompted them to leave the area so that they could think clearly about what to do next. They said that they have the sense that the land is  hot in lower Puna, as if there may be many undetected  tubes underground throughout the area that could be filling with lava and create unexpected spewing cones and flows. 
     Reaching out from Ka`u, Kapapala Ranch offered to haul horses and take in cattle for lower Puna colleagues, staging panels, shoots and other equipment on one Puna ranch, said manager Lani Cran Petrie. However, the ongoing re-construction of the Chain of Craters Road to connect Puna with Ka`u gave some ranchers hope that they could keep cattle in place, Cran Petrie said.
Pele's Kitchen, Luquin's, Kaleo's and Mike's New York Pizzaria
workers said they are open for business in Pahoa.
Photo by Julia Neal
     In Pahoa today, many businesses remain open, including Pele's Kitchen on the main street and Luquin's Mexican Restaurant in the famed Akebono Building. A Luquin's receptionist told those phoning this morning to reach the restaurant by driving in through the back side of town now that the county has blocked the other road with the lava flow on its way. Also open was Kaleo's Bar & Grill and Mike's New York Pizzaria. One worker at Mike's said, "We're not leaving 'til they kick us out of town."
     For school children, however, the local elementary school is closed as plans are made to transfer them to another campus.
To comment on or like this story, go to facebook.com/kaucalendar.

VOLCANO CAPTAIN COOK TRAIL hikers were lost Sunday and rescued after calling 911 on a cell phone. A county helicopter and fire rescue crew picked them up using GPS information from their cell phone call. They were unharmed, according to the county information office.

WALK-IN VOTING IN ADVANCE OF THE NOV. 4 General Election is available at Pahala Community Center weekdays through this Friday, Oct. 31. Hours are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

THE MONTHLY HAWAI`I FARMERS UNITED MEETING in Ka`u is tomorrow,  Thursday, Oct. 30 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Na`alehu Community Center. Guest speaker Tane Datta, of Adaptations, Inc., discusses how to bring produce to market. Datta runs a farm in South Kona that distributes produce through a Community Supported Agriculture model. 
The 8.5-acre farm features an acre in coffee, three acres in intensive production and the rest in orchards. The farm is certified organic and is featured on the University of Hawai`i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources website. The public is invited to all Ka`u Farmers Union United meetings. Farmers and backyard growers are invited to bring food to share.
Tane Datta will speak on farm to market strategies
tonightat the Farmers Union meeting in Na`alehu.
Photo from Adaptation, Inc.
     To join the Farmers Union, call 503-575-9098.

HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR COSTUME PARTY is  Friday, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. at Kilauea Military Camp’s Lava Lounge in Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park.  Cover charge is $3 with costume or $5 without.  Open to authorized patrons and sponsored guests. Park entrance fees apply.  Call 967-8365 after 4 p.m. for additional information.
KA`U COUNTRY FESTIVAL comes to Honu`apo this Saturday, Nov. 1 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Organizers are planning fun activities for keiki and the whole family, with food, music, exhibits for learning, demonstrations, contests, workshops and a plant and seed exchange. Vendors will sell gifts and other items.  See hawaiifoodforest.com/festival.html.


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