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In Lahaina, decimated by wildfires, residents and business owners will begin examining their properties

Wailuku, Hawaii — Maui officials announced Thursday they plan to begin allowing residents and business owners to conduct escorted tours of their properties in the restricted area. Lahaina wildfire disaster area later this month.

It’s been nearly five weeks since the deadliest wildfire in the United States in more than a century. devastated historic Lahainakilling 115 people and dozens are still missing.

FILE PHOTO: Maui children face heartbreak and destruction as schools reopen after wildfire
Views of the Lahaina Air Show on August 10, 2023 after wildfires driven by high winds burned most of the town on the island of Maui in Hawaii several days earlier.


Darryl Oliveira, acting administrator of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, said during a news conference that officials plan to allow people from certain areas to begin entering the restricted area on September 25. homes and properties safely and get some closure.

“I really want to thank, or express my appreciation, the community for their patience and understanding, because I know this is long overdue,” Oliveira said.

How the process will work

The process will involve requesting a pass and meeting with officials before escorted tours. Oliveira said they will be offered in zones based on where the Environmental Protection Agency has completed hazardous materials disposal work.

The first zones will be announced Monday and officials will begin contacting people to inform them and guide them through the process, he said.

“It’s just overwhelming to see the devastation, so part of our process is to support people and prepare them for what they’re going to experience,” he said. “We don’t want to traumatize or hurt anyone more than they have been hurt so far.”

Oliveira said people will receive protective equipment, including respirators and special suits, and instructions on how to properly sort debris while limiting exposure to toxic ash, according to CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB-TV . “We don’t want to hurt anyone more than they’ve already been hurt,” he said.

Water, shade and portable toilets will be available during the visits, Oliveira added. Health care providers will be available and guidance will be provided for retrieving any items from properties.

Fire damage is visible from President Biden’s motorcade in Lahaina, Hawaii, August 21, 2023.

MANDEL NGAN / AFP via Getty Images

“We don’t want people stirring up toxic dust, so we will give advice on how to move smoothly to search for anything,” he said.

People who did not live or have a business in the restricted area will not be allowed to go there.

“It’s not a safe environment for people,” he said, adding that there was still much work to be done.

What awaits us

“At some point, the Army Corps of Engineers will begin removing the debris, but not before people have time to come in and close the area down,” he said.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said Thursday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that people displaced by the fire were being moved to more permanent housing “as best we can,” including rentals. longer term and extended Airbnb rentals with the aim of getting people up to 18 months of accommodation.

He said some might stay in hotels and another goal is to consolidate the number of hotels so services can be provided more easily.

The fire of August 8 started in the hills above the historic seaside town. Within hours, it spread through homes and apartment buildings, art galleries and restaurants, destroying more than 2,000 structures and causing widespread damage. damage estimated at $5.5 billion.


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