What an incredible past week it has been for us here on the Farm!
On this past Friday (6/4) I (Ian) was working on the Farm when I began to smell smoke in the air. Smoke in Paauilo is not unheard of, as neighbors will burn grass and material piles, but as the day progressed and the smell only got stronger, I knew that something large was burning.
Large brush fires are incredibly rare on the Hamakua coast, as we normally see close to 200 inches of annual rainfall every single year. However, for the past 3 months, our coast has been abnormally dry. Couple the dry conditions with the High Winds that began to blow early on the 4th, and we had a perfect storm for a big brush fire.
Around 1:00 pm I started our Luncheon tour to a handful of excellent guests. As we were standing in the Vanilla Grow House, ash is falling all around us. I was growing increasingly concerned that this fire (that I had not seen yet) was still growing, and as I finished my tour at the Vanilla Mill and walked outside, I could see a massive smoke plume in the distance.
What we could not see, was that what had started as a small brush fire, had grown into a full-blown inferno, racing north on the Hamakua Coast.
At 2:30 pm, after completing the tour, I drove one of our farm vehicles to the edge of our property and saw a huge tower of smoke poring out of the trees across the road. A fire helicopter was dropping water not 200 feet from me.
The fire was here. Not more than a 1/4 mile from the house I grew up in, and where all the Vanilla Fields are located, and it was heading our way, quickly.
The most despairing moment for me was that there was only a single Fire Truck onsite, as the Fire was moving quickly in all directions, I guess they were not able to spare many trucks to fight the fire in our area.
As I drove back to the house, unsure of what to do as I knew we had very little time, I heard, then saw, an amazing site.
Dump trucks hauling Bulldozers from Ranches and Development projects, operated by our neighbors and friends arrived. They unloaded their own personal equipment, and the community of Paauilo showed up to put this fire out.
I watched in awe, as these real-life heroes, used their own personal equipment to save our community's houses, and the Vanilla Farm.
In the below GIF, all you might see is flame, you can see a single firefighter trying to fight the flames, but what you can't see is our neighbor Mark in his D6 Bulldozer shoveling dirt on that fire.
This field in the photo below is directly adjacent to our property.
Without the fearless work of Mark and the other equipment operators like him, that showed up and went right to work, we would not have our Farm and many people would have lost their homes that night.
We thank God today and always for his constant protection, and for providing the hero's and helpers that live in our community.
This photo was taken on Monday, I have placed a red arrow where our farm is located. God turned the flames back just in time.
Thanks to the fearless work of our community firefighters and operators not a single structure or life was lost.