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Kohala by the Sea

Kohala by the SeaKohala By The Sea (KBTS) is a developed gated community situated approximately 32 miles north of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. KBTS covers approximately 77 acres. The general topography is a gentle slope of nine percent. However, there is a large gulch that runs through the middle of the community. This gulch is a particular fire hazard because of the keawe trees and haole koa brush within it. The keawe trees are known firebrand carriers. There are 73 home sites; ten homes have been constructed and 30 more homes are in different stages of completion. KBTS has underground utilities, paved roads, hydrants, and setbacks.

Kohala by the SeaKBTS sits in a very high fire-risk area and flammable vegetation within the community is a concern. The KBTS community is surrounded and intermixed by bunchgrass, which produces fast moving and intense fire conditions. The strong onshore winds that persist every day make this community prone to wildfires. In October 1993, a wildfire destroyed six structures in the subdivision adjacent to KBTS. There are at least 43 home sites that are vacant and covered with the bunch grass. The gulch within the community has large keawe trees and low haole koa brush. The keawe trees are known to be carriers of firebrands. However, the existing homes are at very low risk to wildfires. The community association has strict ordinances that require homebuilders to use fire-resistant roofs such as Class A roofing.

Kohala by the SeaSome of the plants used by KBTS residents in their Firewise landscaping efforts are succulents and native varietals. These include naupaka, ice plants, hearts & flower, spider lilies, queen emma lilies, and asparagus fern, and broumiliades among others. Fabio Franzo, a member of the Kohala by the Sea Firewise Committee, is also a landscape architect and lent his expertise to the community effort. “We’re very pleased to receive national Firewise recognition for our efforts,” says Franzo. “We’re concerned about brush fires and want to do what we can to protect our property.”

The community has one functional point of egress and ingress. There is a paved road on the north side that ties into the adjacent community of Kohala Estates. This road could be used as an escape route. Another escape route is being planned on the south end of the community. A volunteer fire station is located approximately 1.5 miles from the community.

Kohala by the SeaA Firewise workshop for KBTS residents was conducted on January 17, 2004. As part of the Firewise Committee’s public education campaign, it mailed or hand delivered information kits containing brochures, checklists, and local newspaper articles to every landowner in KBTS. Firewise videos were distributed throughout the community by the Firewise. The architect for KBTS also received Firewise videos and the Firewise construction checklist. Now when property owners submit plans to build in Kohala by the Sea, they are given the Firewise construction checklist and the “How to Build a Firewise Home” video. Part of Kohala By The Sea’s Firewise plan includes seeking grant funding to remove kiawe trees from a gulch that runs through the community.

Kohala by the Sea is the first community in the state of Hawaii to achieve Firewise Communities/USA status.