Brush Fire Isolates West Maui

OLOWALU, Maui (KHNL) - A brush fire on West Maui has flared up again late Wednesday evening. Joining us live by phone with the very latest is Maui County spokesperson Mahina Martin.

HOWARD DASHEFSKY: Good evening, Mahina.

MAHINA MARTIN: Good evening, Howard. Unfortunately after a day of fighting a fire of 30-mile-an-hour plus winds, we had re-opened Honoapi'ilani Highway but were forced to close it again Wednesday evening at 7:30 PM when the fire flared up again out of the Olowalu area northerly towards the Laniapoku area. So, Its unfortunate traffic is severely cutting off the West Maui area of Maui. We have pulled our four helicopters that were on scene today, because of nightfall safety issues. But our heavy equipment and firefighting crews are still on scene. They have placed a 40-foot fire break line to protect the Laniapoku area as the fire slowly creeps in that direction. And we are hoping for the best.

HD: Well certainly everybody is, You can see from that video exactly how dry it is, and we talked about the lack of  rainfall on the area. What about visitors that have flown in, perhaps fronm the mainland direct to Kahului that can't get to their hotels in Ka'anapali and Lahaina and vice-versa, people who work in those hotels that haven't been able to go home to Kahului or other parts of Maui?

MM: Yes, as Lahaina gets separated from the rest of the island with the closure of Honoapi'ilani Highway and access in and out of the Kahakuloa area is also closed-off except for the Kahakuloa village residents our visitors and families affected by it are forced to either utilize two Red Cross shelters, one over at the Lahaina Civic Center or one over in Kahului on the central Maui side, the Maui High School gym. Now at that particular site, the Maui High School gym is actually assisting hundreds of visitors. What has been happening is when we open up the road for a short period of time, visitors who had checked out of hotels on the west side crept through the traffic, made it through central only to miss their flights, of course after hours of traffic. So they are being assisted by the Red Cross. Meantime, visitors arriving at the Kahului airport are unable to travel into the west Maui area to check in. They have benefited from broadcast announcements that the state DOT was gracious enough with the MVB (Maui Visitor's Bureau) to implement and advise in an early warning way, do not attempt and go to a shelter if necessary.

HD: Mahina, we thank you very much for the information. No doubt a very frustrating time for everybody and the best of luck at first sunlight Thursday when you get back out there.

MM: Thank you, Howard.