Big Island Community to Receive National Wildfire Safety Award Tomorrow

Kohala By The Sea is one of only 34 communities nationwide to receive a national award from the Firewise Communities/USA program for its decade long commitment to wildfire safety. Community members will receive the award during a ceremony on Tuesday, December 3, at 1 p.m. in Kohala By The Sea at a private residence.

Firewise Community

State Representative Cindy Evans will present a proclamation to the Kohala By The Sea Firewise committee on behalf of the State House of Representatives. Governor Neil Abercrombie’s west Hawaii liaison will also present a proclaimation on behalf of the governor to the Firewise committee. Hawaii County Councilmember Margaret Willie, Fire Chief Darren Rosario and Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira will also be on hand to congratulate the community. State Senator Malama Solomon is also issuing a proclamation to the community on behalf of the Hawaii State Senate.

Mayor Billy Kenoi will be unable to attend the ceremony and will present a proclamation on behalf of Hawaii County to KBTS residents later this month.

“The Hawaii Fire Department is proud of the Kohala By The Sea community for achieving national recognition for their efforts to protect their community from the potential devastating effects of wildfires,” said Fire Chief Darren Rosario.

“It’s important for communities to become Firewise for several reasons. The KBTS community and its neighbors were victims of serious fires in the early 1990s. It’s with their effort to be Firewise that I can proudly say as fire chief, it has made a difference.”

Realizing their community was at risk to wildfire, ten years ago the small community started participating in the Firewise Communtieis program in order to reduce their risk to wildfire.

Firewise Communities/USA is a national program that works with communities to reduce the threat of home loss due to wildfire. It teaches people to prepare for a fire before it occurs.

The program adapts especially well to small communities, developments, and homeowner associations of all types, says Denise Laitinen, the Firewise Communities Hawaii Coordinator.

“The residents of Kohala By The Sea recognized that they live in a high fire hazard area and used a variety of free Firewise resources to reduce their threat to wildfires,” says Laitinen.

“Firewise practices have been implemented at every level of the community,” adds Laitinen.

Wildfire safety community projects over the years include opening a fire emergency exit and removing overgrown brush from a gulch that runs through the neighborhood. Residents routinely remove overgrown brush from their property and create defensible space around their home, by removing dead leaves that might ignite during an approaching wildfire.

Kohala By The Sea residents attended a Firewise workshop taught by Laitinen and KBTS Firewise committee members distributed wildfire safety info packets to all community home owners. For years the KBTS design committee has provided Firewise construction checklists and videos on how to build a Firewise home to property owners wanting to build homes within the subdivision. Firewise practices have even been implemented in the community’s CC&R’s.

There are 950 nationally recognized Firewise Communities across the country. Each community must successfully complete five steps in order to be designated a Firewise Community. These steps include forming a neighborhood Firewise committee, having a wildfire hazard assessment conducted to identify the community’s wildfire threats, indentifying projects to reduce those risks and completing the mitigation projects.

The KBTS community formed a Firewise committee after Laitinen gave a community presentation. Laitinen also conducted the wildfire hazard assessment, something she has done for dozens of communities throughout West Hawaii and the state.

Kohala By The Sea first achieved national Firewise recognition status in December 2003. Every year for the past decade the community has successfully completed the five steps of the Firewise program and received its national designation.

For more information regarding Firewise or the Firewise Communities/USA program, contact the Firewise Communities Hawaii Coordinator at (808) 281-3497 or by e-mail at firewisehawaii@yahoo.com.

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