• Halema`uma`u Just Before Dawn

    Hawai'i Volcanoes

    National Park Hawai'i

Volcano Golf Course Public Meeting Notes

Volcano Golf Course Public Meeting Notes - 09/28/2010

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park: Superintendent Cindy Orlando, Fire Management Officer (FMO) Joe Molhoek, Chief of Natural Resources Rhonda Loh, and Fire Information Officer Gary Wuchner
Hawai‘i County Fire: Battalion Chief Warren Sumida

The park's Fire Management Officer Joe Molhoek answers questions at the community meeting.

Fire Management Officer Joe Molhoek answers questions at the Volcano community meeting.

NPS Photo

Fire prevention and preparedness are essential and key purpose of community meeting

  • Drought conditions began in January, they continue and are unprecedented.
  • Fuel moistures are at critical levels.
  • 3 inches of rain have fallen since December 2009 compared with 50 inches annually.
  • Vegetation is dying and evidenced by weekly losses.
  • Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park's (HAVO) fire management has been bringing in additional fire manpower / resources from the mainland to augment local staff monitoring / prevention efforts. These additional fire crews are being rotated every 14 to 21 days and will continue until the drought is over.
  • Cooperative agreements between park fire management and county fire staff are working and remain essential to all fire prevention and preparedness planning efforts.
  • The work fire crews perform includes fuel removal, clearance, obtaining and monitoring fire data (weather, fuel moisture, wind, and other drought condition parameters). Other key efforts include community, employee, cooperator, and visitor fire prevention education, risk and awareness efforts.
  • Meetings with cooperators concerning risks continues.
  • At risk campgrounds, roads, and trails have been closed and most other open areas have fire restrictions (no open fires or barbeques). These decisions were not made easily!
  • Native species of flora and fauna are at extreme risk. Some could be permanently lost.
  • Ongoing efforts of community involvement and education will be essential to efforts of preparedness and prevention.
Dead trees and brush pose a threat to nearby homes.

Dead trees and brush pose a threat to nearby homes.

NPS Photo

Key Community essential preparation and prevention messages:

  • Property clearance of dead brush and standing trees, including grasses at least 30' from homes and other structures.
  • Cleaning roof gutters of vegetative material
  • Ensuring water tanks are filled
  • Cleaning and clearing chimneys of accumulation of soot and other products of unburned material
  • Insuring a spark inhibitor/suppressor is in place at tops of chimneys
  • Suggested restriction of fire place burning other than natural gas
  • Exercise extreme care in use of gas power equipment in vegetation clearance. Have water hose available in case a rock strike fire occurs.
  • Installation of fire department connectors or valves by residents.
Fire stand for hookup by county fire department

Fire stands allow fire crews to quickly access water from catchment systems.

NPS Photo

Community Questions:

Absentee house and lot owners and vacant lots:

  • What can we do when you have a vacant lot next to you with lots of dried out grasses and other vegetation, and not maintained?
  • What about empty lots?
  • How do we handle the undeveloped lots and the ranch along the boundary to our property?
  • Can we post notices to absentee owners?
  • Who is responsible for vacant lots and brush clearance?
  • What does one do if your neighbor has a big pile of dried sticks and other debris?
  • There are 54 acres of common area and 60 undeveloped lots – how and who takes care of that area in and around homes?
  • Can we maintain or obtain fuel break work throughout the community?

Vegetation issues:

  • Do we cut fern fronds? (Answer: yes)
  • What is the best way to remove faya – cut or chip? What is the larger problem - leave standing or stack after cutting? (Answer: for now leave standing)
  • Can we maintain fuel breaks within the community?
  • Are there grant money opportunities?
  • For Kamehameha School – how about removing dried out vegetation along the service road of Keauhou Ranch?
  • Is there some kind of instant communication with the fire department? Also, immediate 911 response, mainly for heart problems.
  • Who maintains the common areas between homes and lots?
  • What do we do with waste piles if we do fuel removal – will the county come and pick up the piles?
  • Are we just creating more fuels and even more concentrated that become more hazardous?
  • Do we get rid of standing fire wood piles? How do we get rid of green waste?
  • How do we get help from the county to remove fuels?
  • How do we best get rid of fine fuels and grasses that climb into the other vegetation and trees?
  • Any place to take dead and down trees and limbs? Rock quarry? (Answer – Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park is not an organic dump.)
  • Pines produce needle cast that is hazardous. Pine trees and other non-native vegetation seem to be a large threat – should they be removed?

Ecological vegetation issues:

  • How do we save `ohi`a trees?
  • Should we water plants now?
  • Do we remove ginger?
  • What plants should we save?
  • Can we turn mulch and other green waste and biomass into electricity?
  • Dead trees - are they really dead or will they respond? (answer – a personal decision)
  • What is the potential for the trees to recover? (answer - science is not clear yet)
  • Should we water at risk trees or water them to save them?
  • Does anyone know what the long term effect of the drought will be? Climate models are not clear it seems.
  • What are the competing water resources on vegetation? (Answer – surface vegetation will take the water first – with deep rooted vegetation last.)

Propane tanks:

  • What about propane tanks and proximity to homes and vegetation?
  • How close can propane be from homes?
  • Won't they get to hot with fire impinging on them?
  • Who should fix propane tanks too close to homes?

Water tanks, fire department connections and blue makers:

  • A resident recently passed away. We need a fire dept connection and the blue reflector to use his water tank on Kaohelo Way
  • Should we save water as a resource?
  • Can we get water trucks to come up when a fire is threatening? Who would pay for it – County? Make a water truck call list?
  • How do we obtain blue markers?
  • If fire department uses our water, who will replace and who will pay?
  • Spark suppressors? What are they? Can we make and add our own?
  • How do we obtain a fire department connection?
  • I need blue reflectors for my water tanks for fire use – where do I get them?
  • If you have a gas fire place, do we need a spark arrestor on our chimney? (Answer – no)
  • Can the county come and advise neighborhoods on mitigation of fire hazards?
  • Who will refill out water tanks?
  • Can fire hydrants be added (answer – no)
  • Can we obtain financial help/assistance from our insurance companies?

Smoking issues:

  • Can we make this area a non-smoking zone, especially visitors using the golf course?
  • What about smokers in the park? We see cigarette butts in the park everywhere!
  • Can you ban smoking in the park? (answer – around buildings yes)
  • I see smoker evidence on trails in the park - what are you doing about that?
  • Can people be fined for smoking?
  • Can no smoking signs be placed in prominent places?
  • I found 50 cigarette butts and cigars around KMC bowling alley and many wayside areas and attractions (Thurston Lava Tubes) of the park. Same for the golf course. What can be done? Cannot the bus companies provide the hazard message? (Answer from park – patrols, sign boards, flashing and lighted signs are/will be employed to provide the hazard information and ........ )

Emergency response and contacts:

  • What action will provide the most and fastest accomplishments – those items that can be done in terms of prevention, messaging/education, and hardware?
  • Risk trumps all - including fire wise information – we need action now. Fire will own a life of its own weather!
  • What do we do if someone is making a fire in the neighborhood – camp fires too?
  • Is there a reverse 911 system? And how does it work?
  • How does the fire departments of the park and county work together?
  • Is the military part of the response – they have helicopters!
  • What is a significant rapid response?
  • How do you get equipment from the mainland?
  • How can you insure there is an adequate and immediate response particularly with park and county and private land boundaries? I want to be insured it is coordinated!!
  • Do you really have enough fire engines for the Volcano area?
  • What can I do to prevent fire coming from neighbors and other outside areas (common areas?)?
  • What can I do to protect my home?
  • If the fire starts how can we contain the fire? With fire breaks, H20 supply, fire equipment?
  • Should the park close more campgrounds and other isolated trail systems in vegetated areas or areas in proximity to homes and subdivisions?


  • Escape routes - who is responsible for creating that and how to make that happen?
  • What is the evacuation plan for this community and how would we be notified?
  • Evacuation routes? Can't this be figured out? Who has the responsibility?
  • Think all risk – should this be a county responsibility? The threats are more than fire – hurricane, earthquake, flood and landslide are all good reasons for an additional way out – right?


  • Can this community education be brought to the schools to educate about the threats to community and ignition sources?
  • What will make the most difference? The individual effort or group? "I think group, to gather enough energy and resources including dollars."
  • What is the global solution if this (drought) becomes long term?
  • What efforts are being done by the park toward employee, contractors, cooperators and other interested parties toward informing and educating about the current fire threats (answer – internal meetings and briefings have been conducted and more are scheduled.)
  • Can we restrict vehicle use – particularly with the vehicles with low profile catalytic converters in brushy and off road areas? (Answer – being done)
  • Can more signage be placed on roads stating the fire danger?

Ideas and/or suggestions and statements from community members:

  • Elimination of ignition sources is the key element of prevention – restricting camp fires, fireplace and other human influence on fire starts, i.e. smoking!
  • Challenge home owners, including vacant and absentee owners to get action going toward Hue.
  • Combine resources to purchase chipper equipment.
  • Post fire danger notices to absentee owners.
  • Continue neighborhood gatherings to get to know neighbors and continue to strategize.
  • Have a Firewise meeting in Volcano Village.
  • Maintain fire breaks or enhance within the community with community volunteers.
  • Need fire signs to entrance to community – Fire situation is extreme!
  • I need one of those fire valves on my water tank for FD use.

Kapapala Ranch:

  • Has not recovered vegetation stands since the 1975 fire.
  • Is restricting off road vehicle use
  • Will restrict bird hunting this season – at great expense –birds are drought stressed.
  • Cattle are stressed
  • Water reserves are very low.

Kamehameha School/Bishop Estate:

  • Restricting/minimizing all vehicle use on property to prevent fires
  • Very low on water
  • Dead brush stacked/piled creates an even larger fire threat.
  • Dozier work, even enhancing or creating a fuel break along the community fence and boundary line will exacerbate the problem if the fuel is not removed! That operation only stacks up just more dead fuel.

KMC: (Marc Swanson)

  • Pipeline is dry – has been.
  • Trucking water in daily.
  • Reserves are very low.


  • Evacuation! – Common sense – Don't wait for the official notification…see smoke, smell smoke get out!
  • Don't wait for order to evacuate – self sufficiency and plan ahead for evacuation and be aware.
  • Maintain communications among county and Park Service fire services.
  • It is part of "all risk and all hazard" mitigation!

Brush piles:

  • Chippers that can do the fuels work are $80/hr. (Hank Banko equipment)
  • Remove dead fuels.
  • Take inventory of standing piles
  • Please encourage golf course residents to pledge to NOT burn their wood-burning stoves until they can install spark suppressors on their chimneys – i.e. no spark suppressor, no burn – until drought ends!


  • Conserve water.

Potential solutions with help:

  • Kona formed a small Fire wise committee (in a living room) – they instantly identified projects. Results – now have a chipping program and equipment that is sustained on $50-$70k/yr. Has been in existence for 5-6 years.
  • It is the synergy and energy from the community that will make the difference.
  • Immediately sign roads with fire danger information and warning in conspicuous locations to visitors, employees and residents warning of the fire threats.
  • Volcano Golf Course community can sign the community in a similar fire warning/hazard fashion.
  • Rental property, long and short term, need to be signed, restricting fires until drought is over.

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