Darryl Olivera, former Hawaiʻi Fire Chief and Civil Defense Administrator named interim MEMA Administrator
August 25, 2023, 5:32 PM HST
* Updated August 26, 2:39 AM
Former Fire Chief and Civil Defense Director for Hawaiʻi County, Darryl Oliveira was named the interim Administrator at the Maui Emergency Management Agency during a press conference on Friday evening.
He fills the spot left vacant by the resignation of Herman Andaya on Aug. 17, 2023, who cited health concerns as the reason for his departure.
“We are honored to have Darryl Oliveira step forward to serve Maui County’s community in this unprecedented disaster,” said Mayor Richard Bissen. “His locally-led response amid storms, fires, flooding and lava events, along with his pulse on the Neighbor Island community, demonstrate invaluable experience and skill during challenging times.”
Mayor Bissen shared Olivera’s history of emergency management, which includes 31 years as a firefighter on the Big Island, nine of which were served as the chief of the fire department. Following that, he also spent three years as what was then-called Civil Defense disaster chief.
County officials say he has extensive experience in structural fire protection, wildland fire protection and suppression, and search-and-rescue operations.
“As Maui deals with this unprecedented disaster, our response and recovery efforts will need strong leadership,” said Mayor Bissen. “His experience of emergency management includes the devastating Hurricane Iselle that impacted our Hawaiʻi Island. He will move from Hilo, and he will be welcomed here to our Maui County ʻohana.”
Effective Monday, Aug. 28, 2023, Oliveira will take over day-to-day operations of Maui County’s emergency preparedness and response efforts, including the response to the Maui wildfire disaster. He will be based out of the Maui County Emergency Operations Center.
Oliveria went to Lahaina on Friday and said the magnitude and impact of what the community has endured is hard to fathom. He expressed sorrow for what Maui has experienced and said he is here to support the mayor and his team, partner agencies, and the community.
“Looking back at past operations, the community has really stepped up out there to take care of themselves,” Oliveria said. “It’s not just the communities that are affected, the communities around them are coming together as well. I think that’s the strength we have in the islands with people coming together.”
Oliveira acknowledged the efforts that took place prior to his arrival saying, “I was fortunate to get on island on Wednesday, and start to get dialed-in with the operations, and have been fortunate to see a lot of the tremendous work that has already been done.”
As the Hawaiʻi County Civil Defense administrator, Oliveira directly oversaw the county’s mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery efforts for diverse emergency and disaster events, including tropical storms and the 2014 Pāhoa lava flow.
“Many things are happening simultaneously or concurrently. As the search and recovery mission is ramping down, we are leaning forward, moving into the next phase,” said Oliveira, noting that the mayor’s request for additional inspectors and other assistance has already started.
As for his role in emergency management on Maui, Oliveira said it is to help coordinate, facilitate and support the operations for all of the missions taking place. “Our job is to work closely with our state and federal partners, the community and our private sector partners to get the resources we need to keep things moving forward effectively and safely for the community.”
“In the long-term, one of my roles here is to continue to help Maui County rebuild its Emergency Management System, to continue to gain trust and confidence from all of you,” said Oliveira. “I have to earn your trust and confidence with what we can do.”
“As you know, we are in hurricane season now. So, although we are dealing with this crisis, we are still mindful that we are still vulnerable to other events and the systems need to be in place to take care of the community, which we will do,” he said.
In addition to work government, Oliveira stressed the importance of working with the community saying, “There’s a huge piece of that—with public education, awareness, understanding the threats we live with, what each of us as citizens across the state can do individually and as families to be better prepared.”
When asked about concrete actions he plans to address, Oliveira said he would be looking at warning systems, communication, public education and plans that can be communicated to the community.
Mayor Richard Bissen and other county, state and federal officials provided an update on wildfire disaster response efforts during the press conference.
In addition to the MEMA announcement, officials also provided an update on the validated list of individuals who remain unaccounted for, and an update on the search of Lahaina-area shoreline waters by the Maui Fire Department.
*This post was updated to include further details from Friday’s press conference.