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FRIDAY UPDATE: Fire remains uncontrolled; all shelters closed, but ready to reopen if conditions worsen

Smoke rises from a brush fire reported at 10:42 a.m. Thursday south of the intersection of Kuihelani Highway and Waiko Road in Central Maui. The blaze was moving south, fanned by winds reported at 15 to 20 mph, with higher gusts. No structures were immediately threatened. (PC: County of Maui)

The Maui Fire Department is still working to control Thursday’s fire and reminded the public that conditions may worsen at any point. The Department expects winds to pick up before noon and heat to rise above 90 degrees.

“All of these issues combined means the fire will likely intensify and accelerate, which may cause future evacuations and road closures,” Assistant Fire Chief Val Martin said. “Please stay vigilant and alert, and continue to monitor updates from the County of Maui.”

The National Guard is assisting firefighting personnel with a Chinook Helicopter and will be conducting water drops this morning.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu expects warm and hot weather this afternoon, with winds picking up at 10 and 11 a.m. Winds are projected to push the fire toward the East, South-East and possibly South direction.

All emergency shelters are now closed and the last stranded visitors were transported from War Memorial Gymnasium to Kahului Airport this morning. War Memorial and Kamalii Elementary School may reopen if conditions worsen.

The Department of Water Supply has topped off water tanks in Kihei and Wailea, and are available for emergency response.

Hawaiian Telecom expects full services to return to customers in the next two to three hours. The company experienced damage to multiple cables, which led to outages at the county’s Kalana O Maui Building and other locations.

In the meantime, the public may experience reduced services by the county and calls inbound and outbound from the Kalana O Maui Building may be difficult. The public may continue calling into the building until they are connected.

The Summer Pals program at all of its South Maui sites is closed due to heavy smoke.

The Kihei Aquatic Center is closed due to heavy debris and crews plan to clean the center as soon as possible. The Upcountry Pool in Pukalani also is closed due to heavy smoke.

County of Maui Public Works and State Department of Transportation officials are making assessments this morning for any damages. Public Works crews also have deployed water trucks and dozers in needed areas.

Four motor coaches transported 170 passengers from War Memorial to Kahului Airport. The Maui Bus fixed-route system is back online, but riders should be prepared for possible delays depending on road conditions.

About 540 people are reported at Kahului Airport. Airlines companies are working to bring in flights this morning to help transport passengers, who had their flights canceled yesterday.

Maui Electric Co. has no reported damages at this time, but crews continue to make assessments in affected areas. MECO crews also continue to take preventative measures to protect the Maalaea Power Plant.

Maui Visitor Bureau continues to assist visitors and those displaced by the fire. Last night, the bureau donated air mattresses and water to the War Memorial shelter.

About 500 acres of farms at the Waikapu Food Hub were spared. These farms are located on the south side of the Maui Tropical Plantation and run along Kuihelani Highway. The farmers are being vigilant as flair ups are imminent with high winds, heat and readily available fuel in the area.

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