Posted on Nov 7, 2022 in Forestry & Wildlife, News Releases, slider, slider, Wildfire

For Immediate Release:  November 5, 2022


First Group of Community Ambassadors Now Trained 

To view video please click on photo or view at this link: https://vimeo.com/767633847

(WAIMEA) – Today, day three of training on Hawai‘i Island, home assessors are conducting community wildfire risk assessments. These are not your typical home assessors who determine the value of your place, but specially trained people who will conduct free reviews of how safe a property and its structures are from the threat of wildfires.

Organized by the Hawai‘i Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO), the first year of home ignition zone home assessor training was prompted by a request from one of the Firewise communities in Hawai‘i.

HWMO Co-Executive Director Nani Barretto said, “We currently have 15 Firewise communities. I mentioned the idea and they all said, if there was funding to support home assessments we would love to provide our community and neighbors  the education to do wildfire home risk assessments. This first-year is our pilot.”

Firewise USA®, is a nationwide program of the National Fire Protection Association, with communities in 37 states. Some, like California have dozens of communities in the program, and some only have one. In addition to the existing 15 Firewise communities in Hawai‘I, three additional ones are currently going through the recognition process.”

“It’s catching on, it’s spreading. We have the three new communities on Hawai‘i Island that are going through the recognition process right now and the Kaua‘i Fire Dept. is participating in the assessor training, and they’re hoping to mobilize and inspire communities on that island to become Firewise,” Barretto commented.

Mike Walker, the State Protection Forester for the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), which has primary responsibility for wildland fire suppression on State forest lands, explained, “Many of the wildfire ignitions we see occur in what we call the WUI: the wildland/urban interface. Nearly 99% of these ignitions are human caused; be it from a welder, parking a car over dry grass, or an intentional ignition like arson. When we want to protect our forests from fire we also really want to protect our communities from fires, too.  When ignitions happen in a WUI, these are the people most affected, so we really want to help the community as much as we want to help the forest.”

You can’t miss that the Pu‘ukapu Homestead community on the lower, north flank of Mauna Kea is a Firewise USA® community. A pair of signs, when you turn in off Mana Road, announce its participation. In August 2021, the massive Mana Road wildfire burned down two structures here. On Friday, soon-to-become home assessors practiced what they’d learned during classroom instruction on Thursday at a Pu‘ukapu home.

In teams, they circled the house noting things like defensible space, home construction type, and nearby ignition sources. For this home, Walker noted it’s metal roof, “That’s a real fire-resistant roof. She’s got a nice concrete slab around the home, which is a good thing and keeping the grass, that zero-to-five-foot zone, is important to keep any flammable material away from the house.”

Over the next two-years the assessors will concentrate their efforts in designated Firewise communities. Awards and grants from the U.S. Forest Service and Coalitions and Collaboratives, Inc. is providing information, technical, and financial support to community ambassadors to conduct 390 individual home assessments.

“After that, if there is demand and we have all these assessors willing to continue, we will open it up to residents in surrounding communities. Sometimes that’s the only inspiration required for a resident to hook up with another neighbor and say, hey there’s a program called Firewise,” Barretto said.

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(All images/video courtesy: DLNR)


HD video – Wildfire home risk assessor program training (Nov. 4, 2022):


(shot sheet and transcriptions attached)


Photographs – Wildfire home risk assessor program training (Nov. 4, 2022):




Media Contact:

Dan Dennison

Senior Communications Manager

Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources

[email protected]