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Residents and business owners in Lahaina devastated by wildfires commence property inspections.


Sep 15, 2023

Maui officials in Hawaii have announced plans to begin escorting residents and business owners on on-site visits to the Lahaina wildfire disaster exclusion zone later this month. It has been nearly five weeks since the deadliest wildfire in the United States in over 100 years, which devastated the historic town of Lahaina, resulting in 115 deaths and dozens of people still missing.

During a news conference, Maui Emergency Management Agency Interim Director Darryl Oliveira stated that authorities plan to allow people to enter restricted areas starting September 25. The purpose of these supervised visits is to enable residents and business owners to safely view their homes and properties, providing them with some closure. Oliveira expressed gratitude to the community for their patience and understanding throughout the process.

The process for entering the exclusion zone involves applying for a pass and meeting with a staff member prior to the escorted visit. Oliveira explained that the Environmental Protection Agency will designate zones based on the completion of hazardous material removal. The first zones will be announced on Monday, and officials will begin contacting individuals to inform and guide them through the process.

To ensure safety, protective gear including respirators and special suits will be provided to limit exposure. Proper instructions will also be given on how to sift through debris, as the ash has become toxic, as reported by CBS Honolulu affiliate KGMB-TV. Water, shade, and portable toilets will be available during the visits, and guidance will be provided for healthcare providers retrieving items from the facility.

Oliveira emphasized that the visitations should be conducted quietly to avoid stirring up toxic dust. It is important to note that people who are not at home or do not have a business within the exclusion zone will not be able to visit due to safety concerns and ongoing work. Maui Governor Josh Green has stated the efforts to relocate those affected by the fires to more permanent housing, including long-term rentals and extended rentals on Airbnb to provide a stable living situation for 18 months. The goal is also to consolidate the number of hotels to facilitate easier provision of services.

The August 8 fire initially broke out in the hills above the historic seaside town of Lahaina and rapidly spread, destroying over 2,000 structures and causing an estimated $5.5 billion in damages. The on-site visits aim to assist affected individuals in the recovery process as they witness the extent of the devastation.

By Editor

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