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Sunday, November 20, 2022

Kaʻū News Briefs, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022

A 66-acre fire burned Sunday along Maile Street, raging from the macadamia processing plant's husk storage below Pāhala.
Photo by Julia Neal

THE MAILE STREET FIRE IN PĀHALA BURNED 66 ACRES on Sunday, according to County of Hawai'i Civil Defense. People on the street said it started in the macadamia nut processor's mulch pile of husks and spread to a hillside largely composed of bagasse and other waste left from more than a century of sugar mill processing that ended in 1996.  Driven by strong winds coming from the Kaʻū Desert, the fire spread through the former grounds of the sugar mill, which became a dump for abandoned vehicles, other trash and, more recently, the site of a camp for homeless people. The fire raged through it and homeless folks ran off.
    The fire also revealed the wasteland of the old sugar mill site as trees and brush burned. Left are hulks of abandoned sugar processing facilities, burned out vehicles and other metal thrown away by people using it as a dump. The fire continued into macadamia orchards owned by Kamehameha Schools.
    Firefighters concentrated on saving buildings, most of them along Maile Street, all of them historic. The old bank that became a radio station; the community clubhouse that is seasonal housing for farm labor and

Bulldozers make firebreaks to protect houses along Maile St.
 from a fire coming from old sugar mill grounds.
 Photo by Julia Neal
used for students off season; the former nurse's station and sugar worker union hale that is now the house of Ed Olson; the old Sasaki Store that is now The Market House; and Pāhala Plantation Manager's House were preserved. The remains of the old sugar camp store on Mill Road and the mango tree lane leading to the Pāhala Hongwanji were also protected by the firefighters. Also saved is the macadamia nut processing facility.
    Those running bulldozers to create fire breaks helped save the old Manager's House and other buildings. 
    A county helicopter scooped water and made continuous runs between a pool at Pāhala Fire Department and the firefighting front for many hours. Police blocked Maile Street from its Hwy 11 entrance to Pikake Street, also closing the road across Scottie White Bridge to Moa'ula.
    Both the Olson House and old community clubhouse residents were evacuated and invited to stay at housing in Pāhala until the smoke and fire risk abate and their quarters cleaned. A huge amount of ash settled there, as well as in many houses in Pāhala village.
    Making conversation even more dramatic among those gathered to watch the fire on their four wheelers and trucks, a 3.6 earthquake rattled offshore below Pāhala, shaking the ground and houses in the area in the middle of the firefight.
    By sundown, the fire seemed tamed with firefighters standing by and putting out pop-up blazes as the wind continued to howl intermittently. Firefighters said they will remain on the scene into Monday.

Smoke from Maile Street Fire as seen from Kaʻū High & Pāhala Elementary and the District Gym.
Photo by Bob Martin

Maile Street Fire in Pāhala, seen from Hwy 11 toward Nāʻālehu. Photo by Bob Martin
A GRANT IS OFFERED FOR PRODUCING LIMU. Hawai'i state Department of Agriculture is accepting grant proposals for one project that enhances the competitiveness of Hawai'i limu (seaweed). The total amount for the single competitive grant is $31,315. The deadline for applications is Wednesday, Nov, 30, by noon.  Applications are available at https://hands.ehawaii.gov/hands/opportunities/opportunity-details/22134
    In March, Gov. David Ige proclaimed 2022 as “Year of the Limu” in recognition of the significant role limu have in Native Hawaiian traditions. The governor’s proclamation noted that limu are an integral part of the traditional Hawaiian diet, are used for medicinal, religious, and cultural purposes.
    The limu grant is part of Hawai`i’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program which is funded by the U.S.
Department of Agriculture and administered through HDOA’s Market Development Branch. For the purposes of the grant, limu is defined as any various kinds of edible seaweed, which form an important part of the traditional Hawaiian diet. Eligible plants must be cultivated or managed and used by people for food, medicinal purposes, and/or aesthetic gratification and be considered cultivated, as wild plants are not considered specialty crops by the USDA. This definition includes plants or plant products harvested from “wild areas” whose populations are managed, monitored and documented to ensure long-term, sustainable production.
    HDOA is seeking eligible non-profit organizations, local, state, and federal government entities, for-profit organizations, universities and individuals for projects that enhance the competitiveness of Hawai`i limu. Eligible applicants must reside in, or their business or educational affiliation must be registered in Hawai`i. For more information on the grant, contact the Market Development Branch via email at: hdoa.addrfp@hawaii.gov or (808) 973-9595.

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USDA EXTENDS REGIONAL FOOD BUSINESS CENTERS DEADLINE: The U.S. Department of Agriculture Regional Food Business Centers program will provide coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building to help farmers, ranchers, and other food businesses access new markets and navigate federal, state, and local resources, thereby closing the gaps or barriers to success. The Regional Food Business Centers will assist small- and mid-sized producers and food and farm businesses with the goal of creating a more resilient, diverse, and competitive food system. Applications must be submitted electronically by 11:59 p.m. ET on Dec. 15. Visit the USDA How to Apply page for more information.

To read comments, add your own, and like this story, see www.facebook.com/kaucalendar. See latest print edition at wwwkaucalendar.com. See upcoming events at https://kaunewsbriefs.blogspot.com/2022/04/upcoming-events-for-kau-and-volcano.html.