KULA (KHON2) — During the night on Aug. 7, many families in Upcountry Maui saw an orange glow light up the forest up OIinda. It would be the first fire to break out on the island.
Get Hawaii’s latest morning news delivered to your inbox, sign up for News 2 You
Olinda is known for its large agriculture lots and large trees and the Waihou Spring Forest Reserve.
Around 2 a.m. on Aug. 8, Nina Rivers’ family started getting their water lines ready as strong winds whipped embers to tree after tree.
“Things were burning for like 30 hours,” Rivers said. She shared videos of her family working alongside MFD in the early morning hours on Aug. 8.
She said her grandmother’s farm is on Upper Kimo Drive in Kula. She said her grandma didn’t have to fight the fire as much because it’s a smaller lot, but her grandma has been under the unsafe water advisory since Aug. 11.
“She said her bill was probably like 30 percent more, which kind of caused attention to her because she was like we’re barely using it, we’re in the water advisory,” Rivers explained.
“But our water bill is probably 60% larger because we were running as many lines as we could that night,” she added.
During an Upcountry community meeting last week, the county water director asked people to pay the bills, if they could, while they work on proposals for the Maui County Council.
“If you live in the advisory area, you will be getting a break on your water bill, we’ll be coming out with that policy soon in terms of what it will be,” John Stufflebean, Maui County Department of Water director told residents.
He said homeowners who lost their house in the fire will not have to pay a bill.
Other residents expressed anger during the meeting.
“I don’t think it’s fair that people were asked on Aug. 8 to suddenly turn into a volunteer firefighter with their own hose from their house and pay a water bill,” one resident said. “We have people with $800 water bills fighting fires.”
From Aug. 11 through Sept. 12, there were 1,717 homes that were under an unsafe water advisory in Kula.
The Department of Water Supply said 372 homes currently remain under the advisory.
Residents have been asked to flush their water pipes for about 10 minutes to prevent stagnant water; and residents believe they should be reimbursed for that too.
“What the water department needs to do now is tell us, which is the council in our budget process, if we need to transfer general funds to the water department, so they can pay for this excess use of water, and not bill the residents,” explained Yuki Lei Sugimura, Maui Council Budget, Finance, and Economic Development committee chair.
She said the water department is working on resolving the issue.
Stufflebean said he hopes the Kula advisory can be fully lifted in a few weeks.