“It was so chaotic,” Two Maui fires create more problems for officials, residents

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — An arson investigation has been opened for the second Maui fire that broke out on Friday, July 12, according to the Maui Police Department.

Problems for the Maui Fire Department and County arose when two fires broke out in Maui.

The first fire in South Maui blackened more than 12,000 acres of fallow former sugar cane lands and brush. It began on Thursday around 10:40 a.m.

The fire was reported 60 percent contained as of 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 12.

“It was so chaotic last night,” said Maui Police Asst. Chief Victor Ramos in a Friday press conference that gave updates on the wildfire.

According to Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, most of the hotspots in the South Maui wildfire are out.

However, a new fire in Kahului near the Country Business Park arose new problems for the island.

The second fire was reported around 1:30 p.m. on Friday, July 12. It’s located by the new Safeway on Hookele Street, according to fire officials.

Fire officials say that the fire is moving fast, as there are brisk winds in the area.

The new fire was estimated to have covered an estimated 200 acres, and it was 35 percent contained as of 5:45 p.m., fire officials said.

“We’re working on securing the perimeter,” said Fire Services Chief Rylan Yatsushiro.

Two abandoned structures in the brush were destroyed, he said.

There were no other reports of structural damage or injuries.

Due to the Puunene fire, Hansen Road has been closed. Evacuations have been also been made for Hookele Street and Target in Kahului. Reportedly, Lowes has also voluntarily closed and evacuated the area.

County officials say that if the fire progresses, Veterans Highway may be closed.

The fire in Kihei is currently in progress of being put out and is estimated to have better containment later in the afternoon of Friday, says fire officials.

According to Maui Electric, they are asking customers to conserve energy from 5 to 9 p.m. Peak demand may cause a power outage.

Around 1,600 feet of power lines have already been impacted due to the fire.

Mayor Michael Victorino reminded residents and visitors that conditions may worsen at any time and to stay vigilant and prepared. All roads were opened Friday morning, and all emergency shelters had closed.

War Memorial Gymnasium and Kamalii Elementary School are on standby to reopen if needed.

Maui County officials say residents who evacuated because of the brush fire may return home.

As the fire is still not contained, people should exercise caution and expect possible delays as crews may temporarily shut down roads

Air quality is expected to worsen in Upcountry and South Maui as the central Maui fire continues to burn.

Winds were forecast to increase between 10 and 11 a.m., with temperatures rising above 90 degrees. The fire expected to east-southeast direction and uphill. Firefighters will focus their efforts on stopping the fire’s spread.

Officials warned that road closures could occur. They are also urging residents to remain diligent and to not leave home unless they must. They have asked visitors to remain at their hotels today.

As of 10:30 a.m., Friday, July 12, 2019, the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) reports that operations at Kahului Airport (OGG) are normal, but passengers are asked to contact their airline prior to travelling to the airport as the situation may change.

Early Friday morning, several flights that were diverted from Maui yesterday resumed their flights to OGG.

Due to the influx of passengers from yesterday’s canceled flights, passengers are experiencing delays at OGG. If your airline has confirmed that your flight is departing from OGG today, please arrive three hours prior to your departure time to ensure you can clear security checkpoints.

COURTESY OF KEONI LEE

Around 10:30 p.m. Thursday, the county reopened North Kihei Road. It was closed for several hours as firefighters battled back a massive brush fire.

The fire broke out around 10:40 a.m. Around 10,000 acres of fallow former sugar cane lands and dry brush were scorched, according to officials.

“I’m very happy to report that there have been no reports of injuries or significant property damage,” said Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino. “The fire came very close to some structures in South Maui, including the Maalaea Power Plant, but firefighters were able to prevent damages.”

Just before 3 p.m. on Thursday, mandatory evacuations were ordered for Maalaea and north Kihei residents. Maalaea residents were allowed to return home later in the evening, but Kihei residents were cautioned to remain at the shelters.

“This fire is still an active threat to our community and residents are urged to remain vigilant of changing conditions,” Mayor Michael Victorino said.

The county and the Red Cross opened up three evacuation shelters:

  • War Memorial Gymnasium in Wailuku
  • Kihei Community Center in Kihei
  • Kamalii Elementary School

The county estimated a total of more than 900 people were at the shelters. About 300 people were brought in from Kahului Airport.

All ground firefighter crews were set to work through the night to try to contain the fire.

Three helicopters flew much of the day after the fire was initially reported at 10:42 a.m. near the intersection of Waiko Road and Kuihelani Highway.

The helicopters were grounded after sunset, and they are expected to return to making air drops after sunrise.

The Fire Department’s assets include water tankers and bulldozers provided by private contractors, the Department of Public Works and the Department of Environmental Management. State Airports Division firefighters were assisting as well as state forestry personnel.

Police reported some disruptions of 911 emergency communications, but callers were urged to keep calling until dispatchers answered.

COURTESY OF CHRIS ARCHER

Hours after the fire first broke out, flights into Kahului were diverted as the fire impacted access to the airport. The Hawaii Department of Transportation later announced that all operations at the Kahului Aiport (OGG) were returned to normal.

Winds fanning the flames were estimated to be blowing from 15 to 20 mph, with higher gusts.

Maui Veterans Highway was shut down at 2:20 p.m. Thursday from the Central Maui baseyard to its intersection with Piilani Highway and North Kihei Road while firefighters battled the brush fire.

The fire forced more road closures, such as Kuihelani Highway and North Kihei Road.

Due to the brush fire, parts of South Maui experienced an outage. Around 3:40 p.m., the company restored electrical service to the majority of customers in the area.

The fire did not affect any Maui Electric facilities, said the company.

Aside from Kihei residents, the Maui Humane Society evacuated around 1 p.m. The agency moved the animals to its evacuation site at Maui High School.

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