Large Maui brush fire cuts off towns, forces evacuations


By Alfred Acenas
EBC Hawaii Bureau

HONOLULU, HAWAII (Eagle News) – At approximately 10:40 a.m. local time on Thursday, 11 July 2019, a brush fire began in Maui Island’s valley floor south of the town of Kahului. Additional fires then burned out of control at around 2:30 p.m., prompting the county’s emergency management to order the evacuation in the coastal towns of Kihei and later Maalaea – both located in the direct path of the growing smoke and heat.

Eyewitness and Maui resident Delmar Dominno took a video of the billowing smoke column from a distance while advising friends and family through social media about the impending danger.

Another resident, Dexter Saldua, stated that accees to main roads nearest the blaze had to be temporarily closed, cutting off areas in South Kihei and affecting afternoon commute throughout the island.

Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino then directed the opening of three locations in the Kahului-Wailuku areas to serve as shelters. Around 2,000 people availed of the said facilities, including travelers whose flights were delayed due to heavy smoke building up along the flight path to and from Kahului Airport (OGG). Most of the evacuees either returned to their homes or resumed their travel the next day.

The following day, Friday, Hawaii Governor David Ige said, “I am declaring our Valley Isle a disaster area for the purpose of implementing the emergency management functions as allowed by law.” He stressed that the declaration authorizes the state to appropriate monies to support speedy and efficient relief efforts. Ige also messaged Oprah Winfrey via Twitter, thanking the actress/philanthropist for opening an access road within her Maui property to facilitate in the evacuation.

As of late Friday night, County officials estimated that the fires were between 70 to 80 percent contained. Maui’s Fire Department resumed its mission on Saturday morning, dispatching two helicopters to drop water over the affected areas. Military units from the Hawaii Army National Guard and the 25th Infantry Division are expected to provide additional support as well.

So far, Maui County has not received any reports of casualties or injuries as a direct result of the wildfires.

(Eagle News Service)