Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization
Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization is a nonprofit that was founded more than 20 years ago, with a vision for the region’s people and places to be wildfire-ready and wildfire-resilient. HWMO’S Executive Director, Nani Barretto, is part of the inaugural HANO Fellows cohort.
Over the years HWMO has become the state’s primary hub for wildfire prevention, mitigation, and planning activities, and our agency and community partners rely on us to serve this role. We value being proactive, collaborative in nature, multi-partner-driven, and forward thinking in terms of what we do and how we do them, so we can make a big impact that can be long lasting.
Our state has a big wildfire problem. And it’s getting bigger every year. In fact, about the same proportion of land in the state burns every year as burns in the most fire-prone western U.S. states. Did you know about 99% of our fires are started by people, mostly by accident? And because more than 25% of our state’s land contains highly flammable grasses and shrubs, these fires can spread quickly and unexpectedly. Impacts take place mauka to makaʻi and are broad and long-lasting (think, residential evacuations, water and air quality, loss of native forests, government budgets). Good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. If we all know our role and do our part ahead of time, individually and collectively, we can reduce wildfire ignitions and spread.
On behalf of over 35 agencies and partners across the state, we host the statewide wildfire awareness and prevention campaign called, Wildfire & Drought LOOKOUT! (www.hawaiiwildfire.org/lookout). The campaign consists of messaging around what residents can do to prevent ignitions and what actions to take around their homes, yards, and communities to be prepared.
In partnership with the State Division of Forestry & Wildlife, we also manage the statewide Hawaiʻi-Firewise Communities Program and Network where 15 (and growing) communities across the state are nationally recognized Firewise® USA communities. The Firewise® USA program (www.firewise.org) is a national program that provides a framework for neighbors in fire-prone areas across the country to come together to take action around their wildfire concerns. Together with us and our county and state fire agencies, residents in these communities have already identified their wildfire hazards and concerns, mapped out their next-step priorities, and taken action to prepare themselves, their communities, and their natural resources for wildfire.