A series of community meetings will be held this month to seek public input for the development of a West Maui-focused wildfire protection plan, according to an announcement.
The effort is being led by the nonprofit Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, in collaboration with the West Maui Fire Task Force. The group is dedicated to protecting communities and natural resources from wildfire.
Meetings will be held:
* Jan. 22, 1 to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., at the Lahaina Civic Center.
* Jan. 23, 1 to 2 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., at the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center in Wailuku.
* Jan. 28, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., in the Kapalua Village Center Conference Room.
* Jan. 29, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m., at Waihee Elementary School.
The announcement notes the numerous and costly impacts of wildfires, including road closures and evacuations; more smoke, dust, flooding and traffic; poor stream and ocean water quality; and burned homes and property damage.
The community wildfire protection plan process relies on community input for preparing and protecting fire-prone areas from wildfires, the announcement says. The West Maui meetings will identify and prioritize projects to reduce the threat of wildfire to West Maui communities.
Planning has become a prerequisite for federal funding for wildfire protection projects.
Lance De Silva, Maui forest management supervisor with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources' Division of Forestry and Wildlife, said a community wildfire protection plan isn't just another federal study.
It is "a community-based 'roots' process to outline wildfire risks to a community and to catalyze projects that can reduce those risks," he said. "In West Maui, we need to reduce our risks from mauka to makai. This is an important opportunity for communities to have a say over the priorities in the plan and to seek funds for the wildfire mitigation projects that residents themselves identify. Invest your time to protect your investments."
Elizabeth Pickett, Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization executive director, said the creation of a wildfire protection plan will tie in to existing or planned disaster or long-range community plans.
The planning "will be a useful tool for community members to help make West Maui's neighborhoods and natural areas fire-safe," she said. "Wildfires tie into many natural resource, municipal and community issues, so this is an important opportunity for communities to learn, have their voices heard and get involved."
The Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization is a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting communities and natural resources from wildfire. Its partners include the Maui Fire Department, the Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Forestry and Wildlife, West Maui Mountains Watershed Partnership, the National Park Service, University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension, large landowners, ranchers, scientists and community members.