Hawaii Governor Josh Green issued an evacuation alert on Saturday afternoon, due to a brushfire close to the Kaanapali resort area of Maui. The fire broke out around 12:45 p.m. and prompted locals to evacuate their families and pets.
Green’s warning came only weeks after devastating bushfires wrecked the island and left 115 people dead, and around 300 more missing.
By 2:45 p.m., the Maui County Department of Fire and Public Safety had managed to contain the fire. The evacuation order was lifted at 5 p.m., with the fire 90% contained and power restored by 7 p.m.
The cause of the brushfire is still uncertain, however interim director of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, Darryl Oliveira (who was appointed to the position on Friday) led the response. The sirens were notably heard around West Maui when they were not used at all during the Lahaina fire.
Lei Casco – who lost five apartments and one single-family home in the first fire – said the warnings of Saturday’s fire triggered “flashbacks and PTSD.”
“My three boys were crying,” Casco said. “[The authorities] put on the sirens and alerts to cellphone, which they didn’t do when Lahaina burned. But all of a sudden, they do it now.”
The search for the missing victims of the original Lahaina fire has been extended to the ocean, as teams dive to find bodies.
Furthermore, Maui County filed a lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric Co. on Thursday, claiming the utility neglected to switch off the power grid even with high winds and dry conditions. Witnesses reported several fires being started by sparks from power lines.
Maui Mayor Michael Victorino called for the long-term housing pleas of locals as shelters have been cleared and all evacuees housed in hotels, vacation rentals, or other housing. Governor Green thanked the American Red Cross, FEMA, the hotel industry, and Airbnb for their support.
Saturday’s fire may be a painful reminder for locals of the devastation of the first fire, but thankfully the evacuation order was lifted in time to avoid further loss of life or property. However, as the investigation into the cause of the fire continues, the recovery from the first fire is still ongoing with many families left without a home.