Maui Mayor: Lessons Learned After Two Brush Fires

Jul 17, 2019

Maui County and fire officials say they have learned several lessons from the latest wildfires in Central and South Maui.

Earlier this week, the county announced that the two fires were both 100 % contained with firefighters monitoring and extinguishing hot spots.

 

A total of more than 9,000 acres burned in four days, closing roads, diverting flights and forcing evacuation.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino says the county is looking at what it can do to mitigate future fires. The mayor said more firebreaks or green zones are needed.

“We’re going to be better prepared in how we situate our assets if a fire was to break out again in these areas," Victorino told HPR. "We’re learning that how do we better prepare to protect the roadways that traverse South Maui and Central Maui. This was the first time in any of our major events we had, here, in Central Maui that Kihei got cut off.”

Victorino says there will be a debriefing later this week to discuss where county agencies can improve in responding to a wildfire.

Victorino said he was relieved there were no injuries or major property damage from the dangerous, fast-moving fires. 

The fires may continue to smolder for a week and crews were expected to monitor burn areas and put out hotspots with a dedicated emergency call-back crew available, Maui County officials said.

"We would like to ask the public to please stay out of all burned areas due to hazards sometimes not clearly visible," said Fire Services Chief Rylan Yatsushiro. "Hazards such as hotspots and underground voids exist. These voids are caused by roots and root balls burning under ground level."

Air quality has improved Monday compared to late Sunday when windblown dust and ash enveloped parts of central and south Maui, officials said.

The first fire was reported Thursday morning and eventually burned 14 square miles, officials said.

The second fire in the Kahului area was reported early Friday afternoon and burned 200 acres, officials said.

Police have classified the second fire as an arson case and are looking for a truck seen leaving the area.