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EPA 2023 Maui Wildfires (TPD2310035)

2023 Maui Wildfires

Last updated: September 29, 2023

 

 

Background

High winds from Hurricane Dora south of Hawai‘i and dry weather caused wildfires to develop in Lā hainā , Upper Kula, Pū lehu/Kihei and Ka‘anapali on the island of Maui on August 8, 2023.

The wildfires are the deadliest U.S. wildfires in at least 100 years. The wildfires affected approximately 1,550 parcels and 2,200 structures.

Our deepest sympathies and condolences lie with those who have lost loved ones and property.

On August 10, 2023, President Biden declared the Maui wildfires a major disaster and ordered federal aid to assist with state and local recovery efforts.

On August 11, 2023, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assigned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with the mission assignment to survey, remove, and dispose of hazardous materials on properties affected by the wildfires in Maui.

Respect for Hawaiian Culture and the Cultural Significance of Affected Areas in Maui

EPA is deeply aware and respectful of the immense cultural significance of the affected area to Native Hawaiians, residents of Hawaiʻi and many friends and ʻohana (family) around the world. EPA is making every effort to approach this work with the utmost respect and reverence.

 

Graphic by Lily Nalulani Jenkins.

 

 

Maui is an island rich with unique Hawaiian culture and history and is home to vibrant and diverse Native Hawaiian, Asian- American, and Pacific Islander communities.

Lā hainā was the traditional home of Maui royalty dating back to the 1500s, and later became the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom in 1820. It is also the sacred burial site of early members of the Hawaiian royal family of the Kamehameha line.

Several irreplaceable cultural institutions were damaged or destroyed in the fire.

Cultural monitors have been established to ensure that work done aligns with the appropriate protocols in the locations where our teams are working. Sensitivity training of Native Hawaiian culture will be mandatory for field and ofice staff. In- field teams will be accompanied by cultural monitors from the Maui community.

 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Role in the Federal Response to the Wildfires

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tasked EPA to survey, remove, and dispose of hazardous materials. This is referred to as Phase 1.

EPA removes hazardous materials that can be seen on a surface level, referred to as “light touch.” Although EPA removed most of the hazardous material, some items may remain and will be managed in Phase 2 by the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

If conditions on your property were not safe enough for EPA to remove hazardous material, removal will be deferred to Army Corps of Engineers under Phase 2. For more information on Phase 2 debris removal, visit: https://mauirecovers.org

 

Left: Hazardous Materials Removal Team in Kula; Right: Hazmat Training for Cultural Monitors.

 

 

EPA is Removing Hazardous Materials from Properties

Following a fire, hazardous materials require special handling and removal. EPA’s teams have special training to safely handle these materials and will properly dispose of them off-island.

Hazardous Materials include everyday products like:

  • paints,
  • cleaners,
  • solvents,
  • oils,
  • batteries,
  • herbicides, and
  • pesticides.

 

Pressurized fuel cylinders (for example, propane tanks) could also pose a threat and will be removed or defueled by cleanup crews.

Special Circumstances: Empty containers on properties will be marked with white paint and left for the next phase of the response, not conducted by EPA (Phase 2).

Both photos above show examples of empty containers that will not be removed by EPA and left to be removed during Phase 2.

 

Important Information for Anyone Visiting Areas Affected by Fires

Hazardous materials may still be present after Phase 1. Your property may have hazards like unstable structures and vegetation, sharp metal objects, exposed electrical wires, and ash with toxic substances. Please follow instructions from the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health (health.hawaii.gov/mauiwildfires) for entering areas affected by the fires for important safety information to protect yourself and your ʻohana (family).

 

Maui Wildfires: Caution for Returning to Your Property

 

 

How EPA will do Its Work

EPA’s Phase 1 process is as follows:

 

  1. An EPA initial team will survey your property for work
  2. After a second EPA team will visit the properties and remove hazardous materials.
  3. After EPA field teams finish Phase 1, a completion sign or a Phase 2 deferred sign will be placed on the property (see image of example signs).

Example signs to be placed on properties after hazardous materials removal.

 

Where EPA Will Do Its Work

Lāhainā

Lā hainā is a town in West Maui that holds great historical significance as the capital of the Kingdom of Hawai’i.

Kula

Kula is located Upcountry in East Maui, on the western slopes of Haleakalā , from Makawao to Kanaio. It is made up of several residential communities.

Olinda

Olinda is located Upcounty in East Maui. It is an agricultural and residential community, southeast of Pukalani and Makawao.

 

 

EPA Phase 1 Complete Map

This map shows residential and commercial zones where EPA has completed our Phase 1 work (green), where EPA Phase 1 work is still in progress (yellow), or where EPA is actively doing work (hatched lines). After EPA field teams finish Phase 1 work at a property, a completion sign or a Phase 2 deferred sign will be placed on that property (see photos above).

 

To learn if your property is Phase 1 complete or deferred, please call EPA’s Hotline at 808-539-0555.

 

R9 Maui Fires 2023 – Public EPA Phase 1 Status

 

Progress Metrics

 

The following chart below shows EPA’s progress completing hazardous materials removal at properties. Progress infographics are updated once daily at 11:59 pm Hawai’i Standard Time.

The charts below show progress in Lā hainā and progress in Upcountry.

 

Left: Chart that shows total properties that are Phase 1 Complete in Lā hainā ; Right: Chart that shows total properties that are Phase 1 Complete in Upcountry.

 

The charts show three different statuses of EPA’s work:

Yellow means hazardous materials assessment is needed.

Purple means hazardous materials removal has been deferred to Phase 2. Blue means hazardous materials removal has been completed.

Legend

 

This chart shows the number of parcels, each day, where EPA has completed removal of hazardous materials (Phase 1).

 

Air Quality

You can find air quality data at https://fire.airnow.gov. Air monitors look for a very fine, dust-like material called “Particulate Matter” or PM. Particulate matter is a general term for a mixture of breathable, solid material in the air. AirNow uses the Air Quality Index (AQI), a color-coded index that shows particulate matter levels in your area from healthy to hazardous. Knowing the AQI can help you take steps to protect your health.

When entering areas with burned debris, people should use masks and other personal protective equipment to protect their health. Disturbances of burned debris may cause ash and dust to become airborne.

In Airnow.gov, click the locator icon or use the search box to enter a zip code, city, or state. Zip code and city take you to the city nearest to you that has air quality data.

 

 

Stabilization Efforts

Stabilization Efforts in Kula

 

Once EPA field teams have removed household hazardous materials from burned properties, the remaining footprint of ash and debris still poses risks to people and the environment. Human exposure to the toxic components in the ash and debris can occur mainly through inhalation, ingestion, or dermal contact. Winds can blow the ash into air and rains can wash ash downstream into the ocean and aquifers, harming wildlife and sensitive ecosystems. To prevent exposure, the ash and debris need to be covered; this can be done by spraying a soil stabilizer onto the properties to prevent direct contact, or erosion from wind or rain.

EPA applied a liquid soil stabilizer on burned properties in Kula after we completed the removal of the household hazardous materials. A liquid soil stabilizer, called Soiltac®, was used due to it being nontoxic, transparent when dry, safe for animals (EPA did not want to use a product that could entrap wildlife; it is only sticky for approximately one hour), and technical information was available for a prompt and thorough review. The Soiltac Safety Data Sheet is available here.

 

Application in Kula started on September 19 on a test parcel, and the rest of the properties from September 23-25. The liquid soil stabilizer looks milky-white as it is applied and dries transparent.

The liquid was applied only to ash and burned debris footprint, not to vegetation. EPA applied two coats of the soil stabilizer, with about 20 minutes between the two coats.

The burned area in the foreground has had one coat of soil stabilizer applied; the second coat is being applied to the area above, before the worker moves down to the sloped part of the property.

Using the soil stabilizer in Kula demonstrated that this product can be applied effectively to burned properties, reducing the potential exposure to ash and debris. EPA has determined that using Soiltac is an effective short-term measure to stabilize the ash and debris to protect people and the environment until the Phase 2 removal can be conducted.

 

Photo and Media Gallery

Click on each image to expand the photo.

 

Contact Us

Contact us to ask questions, provide feedback, or report a problem.

R9wildfiresinfo@epa.gov Hotline: (808) 539-0555

More information on the Maui wildfires response is available on Maui County’s website: mauicounty.gov  or mauirecovers.org

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