WAILEA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A fast-moving wildfire that swept through Wailea late Sunday was deemed 100 percent contaimed Tuesday afternoon, according to Maui Mayor Michael Victorino.
Since the fire started Sunday night, more than 200 acres were blackened and about 100 people were forced to evacuate, including those staying at a luxury hotel.
As of Tuesday, there were no active flames, but firefighters were monitoring and keeping an eye out for hot spots, according to MFD.
“I’m grateful for all the hard work and dedication of Maui firefighters, police and first responders,” Mayor Victorino said. “And, I thank all of the Red Cross volunteers who responded and staffed a shelter for more than 30 people Sunday night.” Victorino continued on to thank additional agencies that assisted in the fire response.
Officials said whipping winds that fanned the fire eventually died down, and firefighters were able to surround the brush fire, allowing brush within the perimeter to burn out. Bulldozers were also used to cut firebreaks in some areas.
“We’re spending the day, crews and heavy equipment, working on fortifying the perimeter and hitting hot spots,” said Rylan Yatsushiro, a Maui Fire Department spokesperson.
The brush fire started about 6:45 p.m. Sunday near Kalai Waa Street and quickly spread.
Maui officials said seven fire trucks, two water tankers and a ladder company made up the initial response. Officials said conditions were “very challenging,” including winds that were blowing at 15 to 20 mph.
“It’s kind of a combination of a variety of (factors),” said Yatsushiro. “We had strong gusts of wind that were coming from many different directions. Accessibility at times becomes an issue. Getting fire engines in the right places is always difficult. It was also dark already, so that poses its own challenge.”
Guests and employees at Hotel Wailea, along with residents of the Wailea Villas, were evacuated.
“It seemed like the fire had kind of backed off, and then it rolled back our way and we were seeing big flames again and that’s when our managers made the call to evacuate," said evacuee Lisa Harvey, a server at Monkeypod Kitchen by Merriman.
About 40 firefighters eventually responded from all over the island to fight the flames.
Fire officials says it was exceptionally challenging to contain because of swirling wind gusts up to 20 mph in the area and not being able to use Air 1 because of the darkness.
Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino was on scene Sunday night and Monday. He said he was having dinner with his wife when he noticed the massive blaze from the west side of the island.
He commended the first responders and volunteers who donated water tankers and bulldozers that cut a fire break in critical areas and prevented the fire from spreading up to Ulupalakua.
County officials said as of 7:30 a.m. Monday, Wailea Villas residents were allowed to return to their homes, but guests and employees of the Hotel Wailea remained evacuated.
Other area residents were advised via text alerts to prepare for possible evacuations and to avoid the area.
The American Red Cross of Hawaii opened an emergency shelter at Kihei Community Center to assist more than 30 visitors and residents. Others were able to find temporary hotel accommodations elsewhere.
Officials closed the shelter later in the morning.
Maui Electric did confirm it does have a transformer in the area, but it’s not known whether it was suspected as the cause of the fire.
There are no outages at this time.
This story will be updated.