Angela Keen: Hundreds of west Maui residents and visitors are waking up this morning in emergency Red Cross shelters. One at the Lahaina Civic Center, the other in Maui High School's gym in Kahului.
Ground fire crews battled the flames throughout the night. At daylight, helicopters were dispatched to resume water drop operations. Close to one thousand acres have burned.
The fire is burning on both the mauka and makai sides of the Honoapi'ilani Highway. The highway is closed in the "Olowalu" area so fire fighters can work to keep the fire from spreading. The cause of the fire is under investigation and no injuries have been reported.
Joining us now on the phone with the very latest on the fire is Maui County spokesperson Mahina Martin.
Mahina, how are things going out there this morning?
Mahina Martin: Very well, considering all the things that are happening out on the west side of Maui. The emergency shelters are still in operation and I have some great news breaking information for you as we speak.
The Maui police has announced that the Honoapi'ilani Hwy has been opened -- just a couple of minutes ago.
We're having traffic in both directions. All with the caveat that should the fire flare up again, that would affect the traffic access and the road access.
AK: What about people's homes? What is that situation, as far as folks who've had to leave, folks who may have some damage?
MM: The only home that was burned, that was severely affected, was that one home in the area known as the Olowalu Village. We were very fortunate that the winds were light throughout the evening. We're about ready to launch our four helicopters to conduct the air water drops again.
With regards to endangering other homes, it was advancing toward Lahaina -- the fire. And the heavy equipment on-scene, were able to create a 40-foot fire break which prevented the fire from spreading into the Laniapoko area.
AK: Now, I don't know if you can answer this question, but I'll ask it. Can you smell the smoke in the air from where you're at?
MM: Actually you can. Although it's on the other side of the west Maui mountains, you actually can detect that there is heavy smoke going on on the other side, and there's just the way the valleys go between the central and the west side.
AK: And of course, a lot of visitors, tourists, on Maui. What is going on with the situation in order to educate them and keep them safe?
MM: Yes, we have two shelters operating. We had about 50 visitors over on the Lahaina Civic Center gymnasium. And I know as of 2:30 this morning, when I was over at the Maui High School gym site, at the Red Cross shelter, there were 427 people that had checked into that shelter. It was a mix of both visitors and residents. And it's very unfortunate. Visitors had a mix of those trying to get to west Maui, fresh off the plane, unable to get there. We also had visitors who had hotels on the west side, left the west side, came to central Maui for a day trip, only to find themselves cut off from the west Maui area.
AK: That's a tough situation. How much has burned so far as far as acres? Do we know?
MM: We'll be launching an air reconissance in about an hour and that will confirm how much over 1000 acres has been burned. The Department of Land and Natural Resources will also dispatch again their division of forestry and wildlife crews into the area to see how much of the natural area reserve sections were burned. So, it looks at this point that it's increased to about 1000 acres, confirmation will come in a little bit.
AK: So, Mahina, I know you're busy, but before we go, any additional plans as far as emergency response or actions that Maui County will be taking?
MM: At this point we'll be continue to monitor the area. Our fire crews will continue to be preventing the fire from spreading and working to get that under wraps. The Maui County Fire crews are joined by the state forestry fire crews, so together they make up a large number. Yesterday, along with police on scene, we had about 70 public safety officials there. We're going to have all our heavy equipment that's available in the fire breaks and assisting the fire crews on scene. Like I just said, the four helicopters we anticipate to be launching shortly to begin the water drops again.
AK: Thank you Mahina for joining us on the phone live from Maui. I know it's been a busy night and morning for you. Thank you.
MM: I appreciate it, thank you.