HONOLULU (KHON2) — From above and on the ground, Maui firefighters battled against wind and brush to contain six brush fires Thursday. However, the blazes are sparking suspicions among officials.
“At this point due to the locations of the fires being all over the island in different regions, fire and police suspect someone is intentionally setting them,” said Michael Victorino, Mayor of Maui County.
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Maui police said there were two homes evacuated on Kamaile Street. The flames also kept residents busy. Jillian Vickers spent the day securing her pig sanctuary in the middle of the multiple fires.
“I got a call saying the fire started again and I should get down there and when I was driving down I could see all the fires kind of lined up,” said Jillian Vickers, a Maui resident. “It was really scary.”
The blazes come as all of Maui County and leeward portions of Hawaii Island are seeing severe drought conditions.
“The island of Maui has had a small area under D3 conditions for a couple of weeks now so it’s already been pretty bad,” said Kevin Kodama of the National Weather Service. “The lower elevations of the Kohala mountains on the leeward side actually went to D4. So they have exceptional drought and that’s the worst drought category.”
Lawmakers are working with agencies to secure hot spots on the Valley Isle as experts predict the dry season to get worse.
“We’ve been working closely with the Department of Land and Natural Resources for a lot of the state lands on making sure that there’s adequate firebreaks,” said Rep. Troy Hashimoto, (D) Waihee, Wailuku, Waikapu. “They’ve been spending a lot of time making sure that’s in place when we’re working with private landowners because we do have a lot of private lands here on Maui, where a lot of the brush fires can spread.”
As for some Maui residents, they’re sleeping on edge Thursday evening.
“I’m going to spend the night again because we have really strong winds and the chances of the fire starting up again is — is high,” Vickers said.
While officials said at least one of the fires is contained, Mayor Victorino said the work isn’t done just yet.
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“Whoever the individual or individuals are, we are diligently looking into this matter and are trying to apprehend them before they hurt somebody,” Victorino said.