Maui wildfire evacuees were told they could go home Thursday night while two South Maui shelters closed and War Memorial Gymnasium remained open overnight for stranded visitors who missed their flights.
Meanwhile, Maui firefighters continued to monitor the wildfire that consumed an estimated 10,000 acres of fallow former sugar cane and dry brush on Thursday.
“This fire is still an active threat to our community, and residents are urged to remain vigilant of changing conditions,” Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino said.
Of the two Kihei shelters – Kamali`i Elementary School and Kihei Community Center – both were closed Thursday night, but Kamali`i remained on standby in case flare-ups required it to reopen.
The County of Maui Department of Transportation has arranged to have buses transport people from War Memorial to Kahului Airport at 5:30, 6 and 6:30 a.m. Friday.
For roadways, North Kihei Road, Kuihelani Highway and Maui Veterans Highway reopened Thursday night to two-way traffic.
The fire remained uncontained while firefighters continued to watch it overnight.
On Thursday afternoon, Maalaea and north Kihei residents were ordered to evacuate, but they were later allowed to return to their homes.
The number of people who sought shelter were 216 at the Kihei Community Center, 253 at Kamali`i Elementary School and 170 at War Memorial Gym.
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.
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.
On Thursday, police reported some disruptions of 911 emergency communications, but callers were urged to keep calling until dispatchers answer.
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.
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.
Mayor Victorino viewed the Central Maui wildfire from a helicopter Thursday afternoon.
“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.”