Maui residents have been fed a steady diet of one, two or more brushfires a week ever since the first major fire of 2019 blazed its way through Central Maui, eating up 9,200 acres from Waikapu to Kahului to Puunene last month.
So far fire fighters from the Maui County Department of Fire & Public Safety have beaten the flames back every single time but at what cost?
“Every large fire severely taxes the Fire Department’s resources,” said Maui County Fire Chief David Thyne. “When a large number of personnel need to commit to controlling a large scale fire, it means thinner Fire Department coverage to respond to other emergencies island wide.”
Maui Police Department detectives are looking at the possibility that some of the brushfires were started by an arsonist or arsonists. Police have arrested two suspects separately, for allegedly setting two different fires, one intentionally and one unintentionally, however there are several unsolved arson investigations out there still.
“We are following up on leads,” said MPD Public Information Officer Sgt. John Sang. “We are asking that anyone with information related to any of these fires contact us at [email protected]
The list of summer brushfires so far on Maui are as follows:
– July 11, a brushfire that began near Waiko Road turns into a four day battle for fire fighters, with flames shutting down roads and eating up 9,000 acres of brush. Maui police have arrested one suspect in the case, Holden Bingham, 28, of no local address, for arson and unauthorized control of a propelled motor vehicle.
– July 12, a brushfire that began near the new Safeway on Ho’okele Street near Puunene burns 200 and takes place while the Waiko fire was still ongoing. Police had a person of interest in this case but he was not a suspect. This case is also being investigated as a potential arson.
– July 22, brushfire north of Maui Meadows burns 80 acres, shutting down one lane of Piilani Highway near the fire. Police arrest an 18-year-old for 2nd degree reckless endangering after he tells officers he was smoking pot and embers from his pipe started the fire.
– August 2, a brushfire that started below Pukalani consumed 5,300 acres as it moved south. Fire fighters with the help of heavy bulldozers manage to contain the fire after flames jumped Pulehu Road. The cause of that fire was said to be due to farm equipment and deemed accidental.
– August 11 and 12, three brushfires break out on Sunday, one consuming 250 acres in Kihei, above the Maui Research and Technology Park. The other two fires were located in Waikapu, with one burning 10 acres off of Honoapiilani Highway near the Kahili Golf Course, and the other consuming five acres off of Waiko Road. Police are investigating these fires as potential arson cases.
– August 13, a confirmed six brushfires took place overnight along the “Pali” section of the Honoapi’ilani Highway, closing down a section of the highway temporarily between Ma’alaea to Ukumehame from 3:20 to 4:40 a.m. Three fires were 40 by 40 feet, burning a section on the mauka side of the highway and three other fires burned a 200 foot area on the makai side of the roadway, down the cliffside. MPD is also conducting an arson investigation involving the pali fires.
While police investigate, the fire department asks that residents be mindful of their surroundings and to take their own measures in order to keep themselves safe.
“The brush areas around the island remain very dry and vulnerable,” said Chief Thyne. “We would like to remind residents to maintain a defensible space around their homes to help protect their property in the event of a wildfire.”