Maui News

Sunday Update: Olowalu Wildfire Damage Report Includes Destruction of Community Hall/Church

December 26, 2020, 6:43 PM HST
* Updated December 28, 8:00 AM
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  • About 760 acres burned in a brush fire Dec. 26-27, 2020 in Olowalu. Map Courtesy: Maui Fire Department
  • Fire fighters battle a brush fire in Olowalu while dealing with strong winds. Photo Credit: Chuck Bergson
  • A brush fire broke out in Olowalu around 5:30 pm Saturday. Photo Credit: Chuck Bergson
  • Fire crews battle a brush fire in Olowalu on Saturday night. Photo Credit: Chuck Bergson

Update 4:35 p.m.: Damage Report from brush fire includes community hall/church

A community hall/church in the Olowalu Village area was completely destroyed, according to a survey conducted Sunday of the impacted area of the brush fire.

Two storage units and two vehicles at the same location also burned and are considered 100 percent losses.

A residence on Luawai Street also sustained fire damage to an exterior wall. Damages to this residence are estimated at $30,000.

Update 11:25 a.m.: Brush fire 90 percent contained.

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As of 8 a.m. Sunday, the Olowalu brush fire is considered 90 percent contained. The burn area is estimated at approximately 760 acres.

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Ground crews are continuing to work on further securing the perimeter of the fire, with air support making water drops on inaccessible areas.

There are no injuries to report. There are damages to some structures in the area, and assessments will be ongoing.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

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Update 12:34 a.m.:

Maui police reopened Honopi’ilani Highway to contraflow traffic after 12:15 a.m. today, after a fast-moving brush fire closed the highway for several hours on Saturday night.

Earlier, from shortly after 11 p.m. to almost 11:50 p.m. Saturday, police escorted groups of 20 to 30 motorists on the highway from West to Central Maui.

The wildfire has been fanned by strong 30- to 40-mph northwest winds. It was last reported to have grown to an estimated 500 acres, according to the Maui Fire Department.

Mayor Michael Victorino inspected the fire scene and credited Maui firefighters and police for their work to protect lives and property.

“Maui firefighters and police are doing a fabulous job under very difficult conditions with high winds and steep, difficult-to-reach terrain,” Mayor Victorino said. “I thank the public for being patient during this highway closure, and we hope to reopen the roadway for contraflow traffic as soon as possible. Please avoid the Olowalu fire area as much as possible.”

Honopi’ilani Highway was closed earlier at Māʻalaea. Vehicle access through Kahakuloa remains limited to local traffic only. Maui Bus service continued on all routes, except for buses running between West Maui and Central Maui.

The Red Cross respite center at the Lahaina Civic Center has been closed, and the Kīhei Community Center was closing as well, according to an update provided by the Maui Emergency Management Agency at around 12:21 a.m.

The fire was first reported at 5:30 p.m. today mauka of Olowalu Store in West Maui. About 50 Maui Fire Department personnel are on scene protecting homes threatened by flames in the vicinity of Luawai Street in Olowalu area.

Police evacuated all the residents from homes on Luawai Street. Residents can expect possible power outages.

The County of Maui Department of Water Supply is asking Upcountry and West Maui residents to conserve water for all but necessary use for the next 24 to 48 hours because of power outages and the Olowalu brush fire.

Update 12:21 a.m.: Maui police are beginning to allow traffic to flow from Māʻalaea towards Lahaina. Motorists are asked to drive carefully and obey directions from public safety officials operating in the area. The public should be prepared for potential closures should conditions warrant. Traffic out of Lahaina was reopened at around midnight.

Update 12 a.m.: The Lahaina Respite Center is now closed as Maui police allow traffic to flow on the Honopi’ilani Highway from Lahaina to Māʻalaea direction only; Māʻalaea to Lahaina traffic will be evaluated by MPD as traffic backlog from Lahaina decreases.

Update 9 p.m.: Fire crews continue to battle the Olowalu brush fire that has closed Honopi’ilani Highway at Māʻalaea and limited access to Kahakuloa to local traffic only.

The fire was first reported at 5:30 p.m. mauka of Olowalu Store in West Maui. As of 9:15 p.m. Saturday, the fire has burned about 500 acres, with crews dealing with strong 30- to 40-mph northwest winds.

About 50 Maui Fire Department personnel are protecting homes threatened by flames in the vicinity of Luawai Street in Olowalu. Police evacuated all residents from homes on Luawai Street.

Residents can expect possible power outages. The American Red Cross has set up respite sites at the Lahaina Civic Center (1840 Honopi’ilani Highway) and Kīhei Community Center (303 E. Līpoa St.) for anyone stranded by the fire. Due to COVID-19 safety issues, people affected by the fire can use the restrooms and sleep in their cars in either center’s parking lot.

The highway will remain closed until further notice.

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Maui fire crews have responded to a brush fire in Olowalu that has caused police to temporarily close Honoapiʻilani Highway (30) from Māʻalaea to Lahaina near Honokōhau.

The fire is burning mauka of the highway between Mile 13 and 13.5, with crews having to deal with high winds. Reports at 6:30 p.m. said flames are going across the highway and making the road impassible.

Motorists are advised to avoid the area.

There is no estimated time for the reopening of the road.

The back road through Kahakuloa to Waiheʻe also is closed for motorists looking for an alternate route.

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