Phone Lines Back Up, Highway Open, Olowalu Fire Day Three

(KHNL) -

Angela Keen

:Now joining us on the phone with the very latest is Maui County spokeswoman Mahina Martin. Good morning Mahina, how are things out there this morning?

Mahina Martin: Good morning, good morning. Much better in some ways. We're happy to say that the phone services have been restored shortly after 3:30 this morning to all of west Maui, so not only can they call each other, but they're in full swing.

We have not yet had an update yet this morning. Of course it's really early, but at daylight we launched our reconnaissance of the fire area and we're able to open Honoapi'ilani Hwy last night. Traffic flowed fairly smoothly and pretty quickly once we did that.

AK: What is the situation with the flames and the smoke right now? Is it calmed down quite a bit or is it still pretty thick out there?

MM: Well, it's not as thick. It hasn't quite calmed down in the way that we'd like. The winds are still blowing. As your own weather had predicted, it's still quite gusty. We're anticipating today, heavy monitoring this morning. But all our crews are just now assembling for their morning briefing, and once that's complete, we'll have a full understanding of how the fire has progressed over the evening.

The Launiupoko residents were let back into their homes late last night.

AK: Any update from the Red Cross?

MM: Both shelters were in full operations on the west side and in Maui High. Once the roads opened, close to midnight last night, the Maui High School shelter, their hours started to lessen a little. The airport passengers could then go from the airport into west Maui. At one point, it was close to 200 people, with a line outside the door at the Maui High School gym.

AK: Mahina, in a situation where your phones are cut off for a time and you're not able to get home or to your destination, that can sometimes create a little bit of panic in folks. How did you manage to keep folks calm and communicating with each other and at ease?

MM: We're so fortunate. We have a wonderful relationship with the local media, including you folks. And as things began to happen and move -- this situation has been so difficult. It was ever changing and the conditions always unusual. Just when we thought it was 80% contained, we were evacuating Launiupoko. Just when we thought we were handling Launiupoko, the fiber optic lines were burned and all of west Maui had no phones. So, we were able to get on the local radio stations really quickly start to announce, after strategizing with police dispatch and communications division what's the best way we handle 911 emergencies out on the west side. And we've just been generating as much information as possible. Our citizens and our community members, we are sadly accustomed to when Honoapi'ilani Hwy is closed and west Maui is isolated. So the savvy ones will travel the highway, knowing that they may be stranded, making sure that they bring phone chargers with them, water, jackets, extra clothing, something to do in the car. So some people who travel that pali often are quite prepared.

AK: Definitely great to have those safety kits prepared. This is the start of a very dry season across the state. Any planning for the future, if it continues to be this dry the rest of the summer in Maui County?

MM: Yes, unfortunately that area that is burning is dry, as is most of Maui. What we'd like people to do is exercise fire wise caution. The simple things -- keeping your building structures, home or business, garages clear of unnecessary brush or overgrowth at least 10 feet out from the building. Make sure that there's no, importantly with the fourth of July next week, make sure that there are no illegal fireworks and people exercise really cautious use of even legal fireworks. Make sure you have water near by, your fire hoses, make sure you do not allow children to be unattended with fireworks, very very dangerous conditions.

AK: Mahina Martin, I know it's been a busy last couple of days. Thank you for that latest update.

Lower photo courtesy Don Norris, Images Inc. Launiupoko