About The Kaʻū Calendar

Ka`u, Hawai`i, United States
A locally owned and run community newspaper (www.kaucalendar.com) distributed in print to all Ka`u District residents of Ocean View, Na`alehu, Pahala, Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park, Volcano Village and Miloli`i on the Big Island of Hawai`i. This blog is where you can catch up on what's happening daily with our news briefs. This blog is provided by The Ka`u Calendar Newspaper (kaucalendar.com), Pahala Plantation Cottages (pahalaplantationcottages.com), Local Productions, Inc. and the Edmund C. Olson Trust.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ka`u News Briefs June 19, 2012

Pahala Volunteer Fire Department crew tackles eucalyptus trees burning near coffee lands.  Photo by Julia Neal
THREE WIND-DRIVEN fires challenged firefighters, residents and farmers in Pahala yesterday, forcing evacuation of Ka`u Hospital and cutting off the main thoroughfare around the island. Two fires burned through the floor of macadamia orchards makai of Hwy 11. Another torched stands of eucalyptus and damaged award-winning Ka`u Coffee farms in the area known as Pear Tree. More than 1,000 acres burned yesterday, according to the county Fire Department and the fires continue today.
Windblown fire rages above Pahala. Photo by Julia Neal.
      Ka`u Coffee grower Bong Aquino said he fled from his R&G Royal Ka`u Coffee farm as the flames came to the gate. The Miranda family, with three farms, fled Pear Tree as the fire, fueled by nearby eucalyptus and gulches full of brush, raged toward their orchards. Fire marched into a eucalyptus stand adjacent to Ellis and Sokha Hester’s commercial vegetable plantings above Pahala but spared their farm.
      After cleaning out Pa`au`au gulch, one fire jumped Hwy 11 and headed up the Volcano side of Kamani Street, threatening not only the hospital but four homes owned by Al and Kelly Galimba. Firefighters quickly doused the flames and sprayed white, foaming retardant along the roadside. Helicopter pilots lifted water from an inflatable reservoir set up in the parking lot of Ka`u Hospital and carried it to the mauka and makai fires to douse hot spots, as patients in the hospital relocated to Na`alehu Community Center.
Chopper 1 lifts water
from Ka`u Hospital.
Photo by Julia Neal
Firefighter sprays foam
retardant along Kamani
St. Photo by Julia Neal
      Guy Enriques’ volleyball camp evacuated the old Pahala gym as it filled with smoke, and residents shut their windows as the ash and fumes blanketed the village. 
      ML Macadamia workers and coffee and truck farmers dug firebreaks with bulldozers and other equipment around their properties and a 10,000-gallon diesel tank on the makai side of the highway in the middle of the orchard owned by ML Macadamia. Between the orchards, fires raged through Pa`au`au and nearby gulches. Fires spread through orchards makai of Hwy 11.
      Winds died down before sunset, slowing the advancing fires. Volunteer and county firefighters worked through the night to douse the flames. Gloria Camba, president of the Ka`u Coffee Growers Cooperative, donated coffee and pastries to firefighters who came from around the island and spent then night.
      Hwy 11 was re-opened first to traffic headed toward Volcano, allowing traffic to skirt through Pahala town. At 8:50 p.m. yesterday, the stretch between the two entrances to Pahala was re-opened.

Berta Miranda and coffee farmers wait below the raging fires after escaping from coffee farms at Pear Tree.
Photo by William Neal
      This morning, firefighters, ML Macadamia and Olson Trust crews. along with highway workers watched Keaiwa and Ka`ala`ala gulches, anticipating another flareup and another possible closure of Hwy 11 should the winds return.
      Ka`u Coffee growers found many farms to be less damaged than expected. Gloria Camba and Bong Aquino found that the fire had burned around their coffee trees and damaged windbreak. 
     The most affected farms, with many coffee trees unlikely to recover, are those of Godofredo Miranda, Rosita Avenue, Sixto Asuncion and Melchor Fernandez, Aquino reported.
      He also said that lands at Higashi Camp, an abandoned sugar cane community, were still smoldering. Smoke and ash blanketed the region this morning and such businesses as Ka`u Coffee Mill let their employees go home to avoid poor air quality.

Fires mauka and makai of  Pahala are visible from Henry Opukahala Chapel at Punalu`u. Photo by Geneveve Fyvie
AIR IN HOMES AND WORK PLACES can be managed for vog, according to a presentation given to County Council’s Human Services, Social Services and Public Safety Commission yesterday. Professor Bernadette Longo, of the University of Nevada at Reno, based her research on information the state collected using air monitors. Stephens Media reports her saying that different housing construction types can help prevent too much exposure to sulfur dioxide and particulates. “A modern house construction can have just 15 percent to 23 percent vog penetration inside, even with open windows, compared with a single-wall, plantation-style home, which can have 56 percent to 69 percent vog penetration.” 
      Longo’s research shows that, with prevailing trade winds, Pahala has relatively clean air from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Knowing such patterns is “really good for the community,” she said. The information can help schools and residents plan outdoor activities.
      Longo encourages government to educate residents about prevention of and symptoms of overexposure to vog. She also stressed the need for updated emergency response plans and improved shelters.

Reintroduction of `alala is part of the Ka`u Forest Reserve plan.
PUBLIC COMMENTS for Ka`u Forest Reserve Draft Environmental Assessment are due Friday. The plan calls for fencing a portion of the 61,000 acres of state forest between Na`alehu and Pahala. The fencing would be mauka of 4,000 feet. 
      The plan is to restore and maintain key watersheds and to protect native species from the negative effects of invasive animals, particularly ungulates. Once invasive threats are under control, the DLNR hopes to release the `alala, native Hawaiian crow, from captive breeding after being extinct in the wild since 2002. The plan includes public access for hunters, gatherers and hikers and stresses the importance of many native forest species for Hawaiian cultural use. The plan would be implemented over a 15-year time frame.
      Copies of the plan’s Draft EA can be read at Pahala and Na`alehu Public Libraries and online at http://hawaii.gov/dlnr/dofaw.
      Send original comments to Ron Terry at Geometrician Associates, PO Box 396, Hilo, HI 96721. Copies should be sent to Tanya Rubenstein at Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife,1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 131, Honolulu, HI 96813.
      For information regarding the plan, contact Mililani Browning of DOFAW at 933-3171 or mililani.browning@gmail.com. For information regarding the Environmental Assessment, contact Ron at (808) 969-7090 or rterry@hawaii.rr.com.

Paul Kehliihoomalu points out a fountain grass plant
bearing seeds. Photo from David Benitez/NPS
HAWAI`I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK hosts two musical events tomorrow. Kenneth Makuakane shares original songs from his latest albums, The Dash, White Bath Tub, Makuakane and other award-winning composition at 10 a.m. on the lanai of Kilauea Visitor Center. At 6:30 p.m., Aloha Festivals Hawaiian falsetto contest winner Kai Ho`opi`i shares music of his `ohana at Kilauea Visitor Center Auditorium. The events are free, and park entrance fees apply. 

VOLUNTEERS ARE INVITED to work with Ocean View Community Association and Hawai`i Volcanoes National Park staff to remove invasive fountain grass from roadsides in Ocean View Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is a highly flammable bunch grass native to North Africa. “This fire-promoting plant spreads quickly, and is one of the few invasive species that can colonize young lava flows that would otherwise serve as natural firebreaks, said HVNP ecologist David Benitez. “It aggressively chokes out native plants and increases fire potential in natural areas.”
      Volunteers meet at Ocean View Community Center at 9 a.m. Bring lunch, water, a hat and sunscreen. For more information, contact Benitez at 985-6085 or david_benitez@nps.gov.