Maui businesses and agencies add up losses after recent wildfires

Maui businesses and agencies add up losses after recent wildfires
Maui businesses and agencies are adding up their losses after costly wildfires in the last month. (Source: Maui Electric Company)

MAUI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui’s recent wildfires are taxing county resources while also taking a toll on businesses and community groups that suffered serious damage.

“They all came at once and so it has been challenging for us,” said Val Martin, assistant chief of support services for Maui County’s Department of Fire and Public Safety.

The fire that started August 1 below Pukalani scorched roughly 5,300 acres of former sugar cane land.

The flames were accidentally sparked by Mahi Pono workers using farm equipment to prepare the field, according to the company.

The business delayed the planting of its first crops until late August.

Maui Electric is working with the landowner as crews deal with downed power lines and 36 scorched poles.

The estimated damage is approximately $1 million.

The utility will be fireproofing 25 new wood poles and an additional 50 existing poles in the fire-prone area below Pukalani.

Less than a month earlier, a massive wildfire that burned about 9,000 acres in Central and South Maui, caused an estimated $600,000 in damage to Maui Electric equipment.

The two blazes are the utility’s second and third costliest fires in recent years.

Maui Electric sets aside funds each year for pole and equipment replacement. For now, there is no expected impact to customers, according to the company.

“If it exceeds what is budgeted annually, depending on the situation, we would work with the Public Utilities Commission for separate recovery on a case-by-case basis,” said Sharon Suzuki, president of Maui Electric Company.

Maui Raceway Park officials said their facility in Puunene suffered about $125,000 in damage from the first fire in July.

The non-profit group is deciding whether to cancel this month’s race due to dust and poor air quality.

“We just appreciate all of the community support, County of Maui for what they did for us with the cleanup efforts, a lot of our sponsors that came through with equipment to help us out,” said Mark Caires, treasurer for the Valley Isle Timing Association.

Another frightening brush fire last month near the Lowe’s store in Kahului charred about 200 acres.

“In 2018, we had just under 4,000 acres of brush that had burned throughout the calendar year, and this year so far, we’re nearly at 16,000 acres that have burned,” said Martin.

The fire department is still compiling costs for overtime as well as heavy equipment provided by private companies.

The new fiscal year just started July 1 and more money from the county may be needed if there are other large fires.

“Right now, we’re managing it, but I’m sure in the near future, we will be needing some funding,” said Martin.

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