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Maui mayor, fire chief plead with public to help stop brush fires

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With 221 brush fires reported on Maui this year, Mayor Alan Arakawa and Fire Chief Jeff Murray have asked for the public’s help in combating and stopping these incidents.

In a news release, Arakawa described the suspects as “idiots.”

"When we have idiots in this community that go around and start fires, they’re burning the assets of our community," said Arakawa. "There have been multiple fires in one day that the fire department has had to respond to . . . the type of person that’s doing this is one that’s clearly not thinking right." 

At this same time a year ago, there were 272 brushfires reported.

Maui County officials said the most recent and largest fire consumed 87 acres in Kaupo and cost the Department of Fire and Public Safety an estimated $82,000 to battle. Flames were first spotted on July 13 and, because of constant flare-ups, was not called extinguished until July 22 at 4 p.m., nine days later.

Fire investigators believe the cause of the fire to be a piece of fireworks found at the scene, about 30 feet from the road.

"Because of the time of day and area where it was found, we feel that this fire was likely intentionally set," said Chief Murray. "There were Hawaiian homes located above the fire, about 30 of them, and had it been drier we might have had to evacuate. This definitely could have been a lot worse."

This year’s fires included eight that had been set in Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company canefields from May to June. One of those fires on June 16 forced the evacuation of Mama’s Fish House in Kuau and shut down Hana Highway for several hours.

Arakawa asked that anyone with information about the fires to step forward and share what they know with investigators. He also pointed out that whoever is setting the fires does so at the risk of injuring someone or destroying property.

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