Wednesday, November 25, 2015         

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Maui mayor excoriates starters of brush fires

By Associated Press


WAILUKU » Arsonists are "idiots" who are "burning the assets of our community," Maui County Mayor Alan Ara­kawa said Tuesday.

The Fire Department responded to 221 brush fire calls this year as of Tuesday, the Maui News reported, compared with 231 for all of last year. There were 266 in 2010.

A blaze that was extinguished Monday after it burned 87 acres in Kaupo appeared to have been intentionally set, Fire Chief Jeff Murray said. It cost $82,000 to fight the fire over nine days and involved 90 firefighters, including some working overtime.

"Luckily, this was an isolated area, but it could have impacted many homes," Murray said.

Firefighters were bracing for the possibility that more than 30 Hawaiian homestead houses could have been threatened, Murray said. No injuries were reported.

"Help us catch these people starting these fires," Ara­kawa said. "It's not funny. It can take people's homes, lives, property."

Murray referred to the Arizona wildfire that killed 19 firefighters last month, saying, "We don't want to have an Arizona here on Maui."

There aren't any known similarities between the Kaupo fire and a rash of unscheduled sugar cane fires that caused more than $180,000 in crop losses, Murray said.

The Fire Department has already used up 13 percent of its budget that was first tapped this month, Murray estimated. "In the whole scheme of things, $82,000 doesn't seem like a lot," he said. "But it does impact our budget, as we just started a new fiscal year."

The County Council had cut back the Fire Department's budget, hoping there wouldn't be many fires this year, Ara­kawa said.

"You've got to be almost crazy to think this is a fun thing to do," Ara­kawa said of people setting fires. "So people that are doing this aren't thinking straight."

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