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Maui firefighters making more progress on two large wildfires


    A plume of smoke from a brush fire closes Kuihelani Highway in Central Maui. Hawaii emergency officials ordered an evacuation on Maui due to the runaway brush fire.

UPDATE 5:30 p.m.

Maui firefighters had 80% containment on the 9,000-acre wildfire late Saturday afternoon and continued putting out hot spots. Containment remained at 90% for the 200-acre fire reported Friday afternoon in the vicinity of the new Safeway and Lowe’s in Kahului.

Firefighters also worked to “burn out” unburned fuel around the Puunene fire to keep it from spreading outside a perimeter area, Maui County officials said.

The fire department’s Air One and Two helicopters began were expected to continue making air drops of water until sunset Saturday.

In a statement, Mayor Michael Victorino said: “I would like to remind our residents and visitors to stay alert and vigilant for the next few days. I also would like to thank all the firefighters, police, first responders, emergency management personnel, private contractors, state partners and volunteers who worked tirelessly to protect lives and property.”

The 9,000-acre fire was first reported at 10:42 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of Kuihelani Highway and Waiko Road. It spread rapidly south and east, jumping Kuihelani and Maui Veterans highways as it consumed fallow sugar lands and dry brush to north Kihei.

The fire triggered road closures and evacuations in Maalaea and north Kihei.

All roads are now open and there were no evacuations.

UPDATE 10 a.m.

The Maui Fire Department continued battling two large brush fires with water drops from helicopters just shortly after sunrise today.

Maui County officials reported the Kihei blaze was 70% contained, while the Puunene fire was about 90% contained as of 7 a.m. today.

The Kihei fire, which scorched over 9,000 acres, began Thursday morning near the intersection of Waiko Road and Kuihelani Highway, then spread south and east to north Kihei. A separate fire, which burned about 200 acres, was reported 1:30 p.m. Friday near Lowes and Safeway.

“Firefighters will continue work on the fire perimeters, putting out hot spots and flare-ups,” according to a Maui County news release. “A re-assessment of the fires’ containment will be done later today, probably this afternoon. Air drops of water will continue.”

Officials said they closed the Maui High School shelter today but may reopen it later if needed. Maui police reported no current evacuations and reopened all roads to traffic.

About 25 visitors who were stranded at Kahului Airport took shelter at Maui High School Friday night. Buses transported them back to the airport around 5 a.m. today.

The Kihei Aquatics Center and the Pukalani pools reopened at 9 a.m. today, according to the Department of Parks and Recreation. “The Kihei pool has been cleared of ash and debris, and air quality has improved significantly at the Pukalani pool,” according to the news release.

Maui officials urged residents to heed the following safety practices:

>> Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks;

>> Remove dead vegetation and other combustible material from within 10 feet of homes;

>> Remove flammable materials such as propane tanks and firewood stacks from within 30 feet of the home’s foundation.


6:30 a.m.

Maui firefighters today are continuing to battle separate blazes in South and Central Maui.

Maui High School opened late Friday as a shelter for over 400 stranded American Airlines passengers who were affected by flight cancellations as a result of the fire that burned over 12,000 acres by Friday evening.

The fire led to disrupted flights from Kahului Airport, which were diverted to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport in Honolulu. About 540 people were reported stranded at Kahului Airport.

Shortly after American Airlines canceled flights, American Red Cross volunteers worked with the state Department of Education staff and Maui Department of Parks and Recreation to coordinate the opening of a shelter at Maui High School, while Maui County Department of Transportation and Roberts Hawaii transported passengers from Kahului Airport. Maui Visitors Bureau provided blankets and inflatable mattresses.

Gov. David Ige declared Maui County a disaster area in an emergency proclamation Friday to allow the state to provide relief from the fire damage.

Evacuations were ordered at Puunene Post Office, Puunene School, Feed My Sheep, Maui Economic Opportunity baseyard, several Maui businesses and stores, including Target and Lowes.

As of 10:30 p.m. Friday, about 25 people and some Maui Humane Society animals sought shelter at Maui High School, officials said. “They have received an all clear and expect to return the animals to the shelter in the morning,” according to a news release.

Kamalii Elementary School remains on standby as a potential shelter in the event of additional evacuations.

As of 8:30 p.m., Maui firefighters contained 80% of the Puunene fire and 70% of the Kihei fire.

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino surveyed the area by helicopter and estimated the fire scorched over 12,000 acres.

“Mahalo to everyone who has volunteered their time and donated supplies to those affected by the fires,” Victorino said in a news release. “I’d like to remind all our visitors and residents to please stay safe and remain vigilant.”

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