Maui Wildfire 70% Contained: Friday Updates
UPDATE: 11 p.m.:
UPDATE: 6:30 p.m.:
A large wildfire that started on Thursday morning at Waikō Road and advance to South Maui has burned thousands of acres and was 60% contained as of sunset on Friday. County officials report that the Maui Fire Department made significant progress containing the blaze.
While earlier estimates have been as high as 12,000 acres, a new update from the county places the burn area at a little more than 9,000 acres, according to preliminary GIS mapping.
Firefighters were concentrating on the perimeter of the fire, cutting firebreaks with bulldozers and dousing hot spots with water at sundown. Three helicopters continued water drops as well while daylight permits. A Chinook helicopter that was on loan from the National Guard has since returned to Oʻahu. Air support will return at first light on Saturday, along with on-duty and call-back firefighters.
The department’s Air One helicopter was diverted to a second, separate fire that broke out around 1:30 p.m. in Puʻunēnē in the vicinity of Lowe’s and the new Safeway off of Hoʻokele Street. The new fire was estimated to have covered an estimated 200 acres, and was 35% contained as of 5:45 p.m.
“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.
Multiple MPD engine companies and tankers were deployed to the second fire, along with three state crash rescue units from Kahului Airport. Private contractors and County of Maui departments assisted with heavy equipment and tankers.
Firefighters also were working on protecting Maui Electric Co. utility poles. The company continues its request for customers to conserve power between 5 and 9 p.m. during hours of peak demand. Māʻalaea residents are also being asked to conserve water.
Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation on Friday, declaring the County of Maui a disaster area. The proclamation enables the state to provide quick and efficient relief from damages, losses, suffering caused by the disaster, and to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people.
UPDATE: 5:15 p.m.: Maui Fire Department reports progress on massive Maui wildfire; new fire sparked in Kahului
The Maui Fire Department reported making progress Friday afternoon in its battle against a massive wildfire that has consumed thousands of acres of fallow sugar cane lands and dry brush from Waikō Road to mauka of north Kīhei.
Maui Now reports that fourteen shipping containers full of construction equipment and emergency shelter supplies were discovered burning inside-out at the Army National Guard Armory Friday morning.
At around 1:30 p.m., a separate, fast-moving brush fire started in the vicinity of Lowes and the new Safeway store. Police closed Pūlehu Road between Hoʻokele Street and Hansen Road. For a while, Hoʻokele Street and Maui Veterans Highway were closed in the vicinity of the fire, but they reopened. Hansen Road was closed. Road closures and re-openings may occur quickly at any time, and the public can expect intermittent closures into the evening.
Evacuations were ordered at Puʻunēnē School, the Puʻunēnē Post Office, Feed My Sheep and the Maui Economic Opportunity baseyard. Several businesses and stores were also evacuated, including Target and Lowes. Paratransit and human service transportation services were interrupted. The new fire drew two engine companies, two tankers, Air One and a private bulldozer.
Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino flew aboard a helicopter to survey the wildfire for a second consecutive day. During a 3 p.m. news conference, he estimated the fire had blackened 12,000 acres.
Safety tips for wildfire smoke include:
- Stay indoors, close windows. If you have an air conditioner, turn it on but keep the setting on recycle rather than fresh air to minimize outside air from entering the building.
- Avoid increasing the amount of air pollution in your house. Vacuuming will cause more particulates to pollute the indoor air.
- Stay hydrated, drink water regularly.
- Dusk masks found at hardware stores are meant for larger particulates and won’t help with the smaller smoke particulates.
- Consider using a HEPA filter in the house to keep the air clean.
Maui County residents are being asked to heed wildfire safety practices such as clearing leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks; getting rid of dead vegetation and other combustible material from within 10 feet of homes; and removing flammable materials such as firewood stacks and propane tanks from within 30 feet of a home’s foundation.
Mayor Victorino thanked various churches, businesses and organizations for donating food, water and supplies to those affected by the fire.
UPDATE: 4:47 p.m.: The Hawaiʻi Department of Transportation reports that the Maui Veteran’s Highway is now OPEN in both directions as of 4:47 p.m.; however, Maui Police advise that flare ups can occur at any time and intermittent closures of the roadway is expected into the evening and overnight as needed.
UPDATE: 4:14 p.m.: Puʻunēnē Fire Is Separate from Large Maui Wildfire From Thursday: Fire crews are battling a new fire reported at around 1:30 p.m. on Friday, July 12, 2019 in an area of brush near the new Hoʻokele Safeway location behind Lowe’s and Target. County officials say the fire is separate from the large wildfire that started on Thursday near Waikō Road, and was not sparked by embers from that fire. Maui police say they plan to implement intermittent closures of the Maui Veterans Highway as needed. There are also temporary road closures in place on Hoʻokele Street and Hansen Road.
UPDATE 2:40 p.m.: Puunene School and Puunene Post Office have been evacuated. Feed My Sheep and Maui Economic Opportunity are also evacuating their assets from the area. Paratransit and Human Service Transportation services may be interrupted.
UPDATE 2:32 p.m.: North Kihei Road closed in the southbound direction fronting the Maalaea power plant for water main repairs.
UPDATE 2:23 p.m.: Department of Water Supply crews are working on three to four waterline breaks on North Kihei Road fronting the Maalaea Power Plant. Southbound traffic is closed in the vicinity of the work on North Kihei Road. Traffic control is in the area. Water will be turned off for approximately eight hours starting around 2:30 p.m. today. Customers in Maalaea and North Kihei Road may experience low water pressure, and they are asked to conserve water while the breaks are being repaired. There was no immediate estimate for when repairs would be completed.
UPDATE 2:04 p.m.: Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation on Friday, declaring the County of Maui a disaster area. The proclamation enables the state to provide quick and efficient relief from damages, losses, suffering caused by the disaster, and to protect the health, safety and welfare of the people.
UPDATE 2 p.m.: Two engine companies, two tankers, Air One and a private dozer are fighting a separate fire in the area of the new Lowes and Safeway. Maui Police Department is not ordering evacuations due to the fire moving away from the buildings. Lowes, however, has voluntarily evacuated their store.
UPDATE: 10:27 a.m.: Due to damage to the electrical grid caused by the brush fire, Maui Electric is asking Maui customers to assist with the situation by conserving electricity use this evening, especially between 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
UPDATE: 10:27 a.m.: There is a TSA travel advisory in effect for Maui’s Kahului Airport (OGG). Outbound passengers are asked to arrive at Kahului Airport more than two hours prior to flight departure today, Friday, July 12, 2019. Multiple flights scheduled to depart OGG yesterday were cancelled due to the ongoing fire burning north of the airport.
Also, Mayor Michael Victorino held a press conference at 9:30 a.m., in which he said the 10,000 acre fire is now 20% contained. The Maui Fire Department has deployed 23 firefighters on the ground with engines and tankers to battle the wildfire that has blackened thousands of acres of fallow former sugar cane lands and brush.
Mayor Michael Victorino reminded residents and visitors that conditions may worsen at any time and to stay vigilant and prepared. All roads were open this morning, and all emergency shelters had closed. War Memorial Gymnasium and Kamaliʻi Elementary School were on standby to reopen, if needed.
Winds were forecast to increase between 10 and 11 a.m. today, with temperatures rising above 90 degrees. The fire is expected to move in the east-southeast direction and uphill. Firefighters will focus their efforts on stopping the fire’s spread.
The Fire Department’s Air One, Two and Three were airborne this morning, making water drops, and the National Guard is assisting firefighting personnel with a Chinook helicopter to assist in work to douse the flames.
UPDATE: 9:20 a.m.: Fire remains uncontrolled; all shelters closed, but ready to reopen if conditions worsen
The Maui Fire Department is still working to control Thursday’s fire and reminded the public that conditions may worsen at any point. The Department expects winds to pick up before noon and heat to rise above 90 degrees.
“All of these issues combined means the fire will likely intensify and accelerate, which may cause future evacuations and road closures,” Assistant Fire Chief Val Martin said. “Please stay vigilant and alert, and continue to monitor updates from the County of Maui.”
The National Guard is assisting firefighting personnel with a Chinook Helicopter and will be conducting water drops this morning.
The National Weather Service in Honolulu expects warm and hot weather this afternoon, with winds picking up at 10 and 11 a.m. Winds are projected to push the fire toward the East, South-East and possibly South direction.
All emergency shelters are now closed and the last stranded visitors were transported from War Memorial Gymnasium to Kahului Airport this morning. War Memorial and Kamalii Elementary School may reopen if conditions worsen.
The Department of Water Supply has topped off water tanks in Kihei and Wailea, and are available for emergency response.
Hawaiian Telecom expects full services to return to customers in the next two to three hours. The company experienced damage to multiple cables, which led to outages at the county’s Kalana O Maui Building and other locations.
In the meantime, the public may experience reduced services by the county and calls inbound and outbound from the Kalana O Maui Building may be difficult. The public may continue calling into the building until they are connected.
The Summer Pals program at all of its South Maui sites is closed due to heavy smoke.
The Kihei Aquatic Center is closed due to heavy debris and crews plan to clean the center as soon as possible. The Upcountry Pool in Pukalani also is closed due to heavy smoke.
County of Maui Public Works and State Department of Transportation officials are making assessments this morning for any damages. Public Works crews also have deployed water trucks and dozers in needed areas.
Four motor coaches transported 170 passengers from War Memorial to Kahului Airport. The Maui Bus fixed-route system is back online, but riders should be prepared for possible delays depending on road conditions.
About 540 people are reported at Kahului Airport. Airlines companies are working to bring in flights this morning to help transport passengers, who had their flights canceled yesterday.
Maui Electric Co. has no reported damages at this time, but crews continue to make assessments in affected areas. MECO crews also continue to take preventative measures to protect the Maalaea Power Plant.
Maui Visitor Bureau continues to assist visitors and those displaced by the fire. Last night, the bureau donated air mattresses and water to the War Memorial shelter.
About 500 acres of farms at the Waikapu Food Hub were spared. These farms are located on the south side of the Maui Tropical Plantation and run along Kuihelani Highway. The farmers are being vigilant as flair ups are imminent with high winds, heat and readily available fuel in the area.
UPDATE: 8:35 a.m. Maui fire crews are battling two separate flare ups along the Maui Veterans Highway–one near the entrance of the Drag Strip and the other on the mauka side of the highway across from the Maui Humane Society. Crews are on scene.
UPDATE: 7 a.m. Maui Electric continues to monitor the wildfire and is assessing any damage to its electrical equipment where it is safe to do so. Currently, no generating facilities are directly affected by the fire. Crews continue to take preventative measures at the Māʻalaea Generating Station.
UPDATE: 6:45 a.m. War Memorial Gymnasium is closed with the last stranded visitors being taken to Kahului Airport. All emergency shelters are now closed, but War Memorial and Kamaliʻi Elementary School may reopen if conditions worsen. Kīhei Aquatic Center also is closed due to heavy debris from Thursday’s fire. Crews plan to clean the center as soon as possible.
UPDATE: 6:12 a.m. The Maui Department of Fire and Public Safety plans to do aerial reconnaissance this morning utilizing Air 1 and Air 2. Crews will assess the area mauka (mountain side) of Ohukai Road in Kīhei to determine how far the fire reached overnight into ranch land. Air support crews are also scanning the area from the Maui Humane Society to the Kūihelani Highway where the fire started yesterday. Goodfellow Brothers worked on a firebreak overnight in the area and smoke could still be seen rising from the fallow fields this morning.
UPDATE: 6:10 a.m. Kīhei Youth Center has informed us that they plan to keep their facility closed today (7.12.19) due to the poor air quality from the fire.
UPDATE: 5:55 a.m.: Witnesses along Maui Veterans Highway say flare ups continue. A round tank was on fire near the Puʻunēnē Armory with flames visible; and crews were on the scene of a hot spot across from the Maui Humane Society. At around 5:21 a.m., we also received reports of a small are of brush on fire between the two golf courses in Waikapū. The Red Cross reports that as of midnight, there were 170 people at the War Memorial Complex. A separate shelter at Kamaliʻi Elementary School in Kīhei was available, but county authorities said evacuees had since returned to their homes on Thursday evening, prompting the closure of the other South Maui shelter at the Kīhei Community Center.
UPDATE: 5:07 a.m.: Maui Electric has restored power to all customers in the Kula Ag area. The Maui Police Department advises that as of 5 a.m., all roads to and from Kīhei are open in both directions.
UPDATE: 4:50 a.m. We are awaiting a morning assessment. Fire crews are responding to a fire near a transmission pole behind the Māʻalaea Generating Facility. At first light, water drops by air are scheduled to resume. The County of Maui Department of Transportation has arranged to have buses transport people from War Memorial to Kahului Airport at 5:30, 6 and 6:30 a.m. today.
UPDATE: 3:12 a.m. Power outage reported in the Kula area.
Update: (12:58 a.m. 7.12.19)
Evacuees return home; roads reopen as firefighters monitor Central Maui wildfire overnight
Maui wildfire evacuees were told they could go home Thursday night while two South Maui shelters closed and War Memorial Gymnasium remained open overnight for stranded visitors who missed their flights.
Maui firefighters continued to monitor the wildfire that consumed an estimated 10,000 acres of fallow former sugar cane and dry brush on Thursday.
“This fire is still an active threat to our community, and residents are urged to remain vigilant of changing conditions,” Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said.
Of the two Kīhei shelters – Kamaliʻi Elementary School and Kīhei Community Center – both were closed Thursday night, but Kamaliʻi remained on standby in case flare-ups required it to reopen.
The County of Maui Department of Transportation has arranged to have buses transport people from War Memorial to Kahului Airport at 5:30, 6 and 6:30 a.m. Friday.
For roadways, North Kīhei Road, Kūihelani Highway and Maui Veterans Highway reopened Thursday night to two-way traffic.
The fire remained uncontained while firefighters continued to watch it overnight.
On Thursday afternoon, Māʻalaea and north Kīhei residents were ordered to evacuate, but they were later allowed to return to their homes.
The number of people who sought shelter were 216 at the Kīhei Community Center, 253 at Kamaliʻi Elementary School and 170 at War Memorial Gym.
Three helicopters flew much of the day Thursday, after the fire was initially reported at 10:42 a.m. near the intersection of Waikō Road and Kūihelani Highway. The helicopters were grounded after sunset, and they are expected to return to making air drops after sunrise.
All ground firefighter crews were set to work through the night to protect lives and property and to try to contain the fire.
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.
On Thursday, police reported some disruptions of 911 emergency communications, but callers were urged to keep calling until dispatchers answer.
The wildfire was initially reported at 10:42 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of Waikō Road and Kūihelani Highway. Fanned by winds blowing 15 to 20 mph, the blaze moved south quickly and jumped Kūihelani Highway, closing that highway initially from Waikō Road to Honoapiʻilani Highway and later from Maui Lani Parkway to Honoapiʻilani Highway.
The Maui Humane Society was evacuated. Officials and volunteers moved animals in crates and kennels to its evacuation site at Maui High School. There was no reported damage to the society’s Puʻunēnē shelter or any other substantive structures as of early Thursday night.
The Fire Department’s Air One and Two helicopters responded to the scene to make air drops of water. The department responded with three engines, three tankers and two battalion chiefs on scene. The department also has received assistance with bulldozers from West Maui Land Co., Goodfellow Bros. and the County of Maui Department of Public Works.
Mayor Victorino viewed the Central Maui wildfire from a helicopter Thursday afternoon.
“I’m very happy to report that there have been no reports of injuries or significant property damage,” Mayor Victorino said. “The fire came very close to some structures in South Maui, including the Māʻalaea Power Plant, but firefighters were able to prevent damages.”