CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARADVERTISER.COM
Thirty-six street addresses are included in the first residential zone to reopen to property owners and residents who will be able to see for themselves the destruction left behind by the deadly Aug. 8 Lahaina wildfire.
Today is the first day those with verified ties to what has been designated Zone 1-C, covering properties on Kaniau Road and portions of several intersecting streets, will be able to get vehicle passes to reenter the area starting Monday. Several homes in the Wahikuli neighborhood, on the northern edge of the 2,170 acres burned, appear to have largely survived the inferno, judging by images on Google Maps, while many other properties were leveled by the fast-moving flames.
The official death toll from the wildfire remains at 97, with no new names released Thursday by the Maui Police Department. So far, the names of 76 of the fatalities have been released, and five others have been identified but their families had yet to be notified.
In pre-taped comments Thursday, Darryl Oliveira, interim administrator of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, said the county’s reentry program is meant to allow those who lost property, homes and loved ones in the blaze to visit those sites, collect information and photographs for insurance purposes and, most important, perhaps find some closure.
“For many of them that left in the midst of the fire, this is going to be the first opportunity to go back and really see what’s left,” Oliveira said. “Why we’re doing this is, again, really to provide them with that closure which is much needed and long awaited.”
The first reentry passes will be issued only to those with connections to Zone 1-C, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Lahaina Civic Center. People from other disaster zones must wait until officials announce they are reopening.
The zones were created “to facilitate a systematic and supported return into the disaster area while prioritizing public safety and community security,” the county said in a news release.
Two vehicle passes will be available per property owner and two per rental dwelling, with safety guidance and other accommodations offered for the first visits from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and Tuesday. After that, entry will be restricted to local traffic only.
Oliveira also warned there “is still a lot of debris,” ash and obstacles in the disaster zones such as burned vehicles. Optional personal protective equipment kits will be offered by nonprofits during vehicle pass distribution. Because of the risks, he discouraged returnees from initially bringing in kupuna and young children.
Maps showing addresses and zones are available at mauirecovers.org.
Meanwhile, Hawaiian Electric said Thursday it was asked by MEMA to start replacing poles and other electrical equipment damaged by high winds and wildfires in and around Lahaina. “This work will restore power to wastewater pumps and telecommunication services and improve electrical service reliability to surrounding residents and neighborhoods,” the utility said in a news release.
Temporary poles, transformers, power lines and other equipment will be installed “to provide safe and reliable power while longterm, community-driven plans are developed for future energy needs.” HECO said the temporary infrastructure would not preclude the possibility of underground utility lines in the future.