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New Maui brush fire forces brief evacuation of Lahaina neighborhood

A brush fire burned 7 acres on Saturday and prompted Maui authorities to briefly evacuate residents from a neighborhood of Lahaina — just a few miles from the site recently ravaged by blazes — before firefighters brought it under control.

Firefighters doused flames from above using a helicopter and with hoses on the ground, said John Heggie, a spokesperson for Maui County’s Joint Information Center.

The fire prompted an evacuation order for a residential area of Lahaina in the hills above Kaanapali resort hotels, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said. The fire was burning in the Kaanapali Hillside from Anapuni Loop to West Mahipulu, the agency said. 

New Maui brush fire forces evacuation of Lahaina neighborhood
Firefighters battle a brush fire which broke out in the Kaanapali Hillside area of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Aug. 26, 2023. 

CBS News

Early Saturday evening, Maui County officials said that forward progress on the fire had been halted and evacuation orders had been lifted. It was 85% contained, officials said.   

At least 115 people were killed and more than 2,200 structures destroyed when a wildfire tore through downtown Lahaina on Aug. 8, one of several that broke out that day on the island. Minimal rains have pushed the area into drought. 

On Thursday, Maui County officials released the names of 388 people unaccounted for since wildfires broke out, the first such list to be issued. 

However, within a day of its release, more than 100 of those on the list or their relatives came forward to say they’re safe, the FBI said Friday. Officials told CBS News that it doesn’t necessarily mean that those 100-plus have been removed from the list, because that new information still needs to be vetted and confirmed.  

“We’re very thankful for the people who have reached out by phone or email,” Steven Merrill, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Honolulu, said in a news conference. “As we get someone off of a list, this has enabled us to devote more resources to those who are still on the list.”

On Saturday afternoon, Maui County officials reported that so far 99% of the Lahaina burn area had been canvassed for human remains by hundreds of federal personnel and dozens of cadaver dogs. 

The Lahaina fire has burned 3.39 acres and is 90% contained. The cause remains under investigation. 

On Friday, Maui County Officials announced that the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency had a new interim chief, Darryl Oliveira, after its previous administrator, Herman Andaya, resigned last week amid criticism for his agency’s response to the Lahaina blaze. 

Oliveira is the former Hawaii Fire Department chief and also served as the head of the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency. 

Andaya resigned Aug. 17, just one day after he publicly defended his controversial decision not to activate the island’s warning sirens when the Lahaina wildfire was spreading.

Andaya argued that sounding the sirens could have created confusion by sending Lahaina residents into the path of the blaze because they may have thought the sirens were signaling a tsunami, not a wildfire.

“The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the sirens are sounded,” Andaya said in the Aug. 16 news conference.

“Had we sounded the sirens that night, we were afraid that people would have gone mauka (mountainside), and if that was the case, they would have gone into the fire,” he added. 

Maui County Thursday also said it had sued Hawaiian Electric Company over the fires, saying the utility negligently failed to shut off power despite exceptionally high winds and dry conditions.  

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/maui-brush-fire-evacuation-lahaina-neighborhood/ New Maui brush fire forces brief evacuation of Lahaina neighborhood

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