10:00 PM Update: The Kihei-bound lane on North Kihei Road is open. All evacuees may also return home.
9:30 PM Update: Maui Police Department is escorting cars intermittently through North Kihei Road as conditions allow. Maui Veterans Highway reopened in both lanes of traffic. Residents on Ohukai and to Uwapo Road are clear to return to their homes.
Currently, Maui Electric generating facilities have not been affected by the wildfire. We continue to monitor the situation with the Maui Fire Department on site at our Maalaea Generating Station.
There are no scheduled or planned outages to customers at this time. Should personnel have to evacuate the Maalaea Generating Station in the interest of safety, Maui Electric staff are prepared and equipped to operate at an alternative location to maintain electrical service.
North Kihei Road remains completely closed and Maui Veterans Highway is only open to Kahului-bound traffic as firefighters continue to battle a wildfire that broke out Thursday morning.
The fire is not contained at this time and mandatory evacuations were ordered for Maalaea and north Kihei residents. Maalaea residents were allowed to return home later in the evening, but Kihei residents were cautioned to remain at the shelters.
“This fire is still an active threat to our community and residents are urged to remain vigilant of changing conditions,” Mayor Michael Victorino said.
The Kihei Community Center, manned by the Department of Parks and Recreation, had 156 people and six dogs before 7 p.m.; Kamalii Elementary School, manned by the Red Cross, had 253 people; War Memorial Gymnasium, manned by Red Cross, has about 200 people.
The Maui County Department of Transportation provided six motor coaches and five school buses on standby at Kahului Airport to transport visitors and affected residents to shelters. DOT is in the process of transporting another 300 people from Kahului Airport to War Memorial.
Those seeking shelter in Wailuku should go to War Memorial Gymnasium and not the Velma McWayne Santos Community Center. The center is only on standby in the event that War Memorial reaches capacity.
Three helicopters flew much of the day Thursday, after the fire was initially reported at 10:42 a.m. near the intersection of Waiko Road and Kuihelani Highway. The helicopters were grounded after sunset, and they are expected to return to making air drops after sunrise.
All ground firefighter crews were set to work through the night to protect lives and property and to try to contain the fire, which remained a “very dynamic situation,” according to Maui Fire Department Fire Services Chief Rylan Yatsushiro.
The Fire Department’s assets include water tankers and bulldozers provided by private contractors, the Department of Public Works and the Department of Environmental Management. State Airports Division firefighters were assisting as well as state forestry personnel.
Police reported some disruptions of 911 emergency communications, but callers were urged to keep calling until dispatchers answer.
Mayor Victorino asked that visitors check with their airlines first before departing for Kahului Airport.
Visitors were told to stay at their hotels and off the roads, and car rental companies were informing visitors not to drive to Kihei.
The wildfire was initially reported at 10:42 a.m. Thursday near the intersection of Waiko Road and Kuihelani Highway. Fanned by winds blowing 15 to 20 mph, the blaze moved south quickly and jumped Kuihelani Highway, closing that highway initially from Waiko Road to Honoapiilani Highway and later from Maui Lani Parkway to Honoapiilani Highway.
Kuihelani Highway and Waiko Road have since reopened.
The Maui Humane Society was evacuated. Officials and volunteers moved animals in crates and kennels to its evacuation site at Maui High School. There was no reported damage to the society’s Puunene shelter or any other substantive structures as of early Thursday night.
The Fire Department’s Air One and Two helicopters responded to the scene to make air drops of water. The department responded with three engines, three tankers and two battalion chiefs on scene. The department also has received assistance with bulldozers from West Maui Land Co., Goodfellow Bros. and the County of Maui Department of Public Works.
Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino viewed the Central Maui wildfire from a helicopter Thursday afternoon and estimated it had burned approximately 3,000 acres of fallow former sugar cane lands and dry brush.
“I’m very happy to report that there have been no reports of injuries or significant property damage,” Mayor Victorino said. “The fire came very close to some structures in South Maui, including the Maalaea Power Plant, but firefighters were able to prevent damages.”