Maui burns

Maui County officials closed all roads to public use in the town of Lahaina as wildfires on the Hawaiian island burned out of control, driven by high winds that the Associated Press said gusted over 60 mph. Hurricane Dora has passed to the south of the islands at a distance of nearly 500 miles, but extreme conditions and violent winds across the islands resulted in numerous power outages late Tuesday; firefighters struggled to reach areas cut off by downed trees and powerlines.

The National Weather Service said Hurricane Dora’s winds knocked out power and grounded firefighting helicopters.

West Maui is closed off to all traffic, according to a CNN report from Maui County. Only emergency personnel are allowed access to that part of the island.

NASA image, Maui firesThe BBC reported that some residents were forced to jump into the ocean ahead of racing flames; the Coast Guard said at least a dozen people were rescued from the water. Local media reported “apocalyptic scenes” in the historic town of Lahaina, parts of which were destroyed or severely damaged. The Lahaina fire is one of at least seven now burning in the state.

A local CBS affiliate reported that dozens of homes and businesses were destroyed on the western part of the island of Maui, the second largest and third most populated island in the state. HawaiiNewsNow reported that witnesses described apocalyptic scenes Tuesday. Residents say an overwhelmed fire force, fighting flames all day in powerful winds, could do little as flames ripped through Lahaina.

Videos from the island show the historic town’s main street and local businesses burning. “Buildings on both sides were engulfed,” local business owner Alan Dickar told CBS.

“Hawaii National Guardsmen have been activated and are currently on Maui assisting Maui Police Department at traffic control points,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Hawaii’s adjutant general. The overnight deployment was hastened by the dynamic fire conditions, and additional National Guard personnel are expected to arrive in Maui and Hawaii counties later Wednesday, Hara said.

Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke, who is acting while Gov. Josh Green is traveling out of state, issued an emergency proclamation Tuesday that activated the Guard. Updated road closures and other emergency notices are posted on the County of Maui facebook page.


Eight Incident Management Teams mobilized to Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands

Above: The U.S. Navy assists a victim of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. U.S. Navy Photo.

Eight Incident Management Teams have, or will soon be responding to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to assist in the response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. As of Wednesday evening a total of 353 personnel have been assigned to the FEMA response through the National Interagency Fire Center. This does not include the resources mobilized directly by FEMA.

Here are the details, according to NIFC:

  • A Type 1 IMT (McGowen) has arrived in Puerto Rico and is coordinating with FEMA regarding establishment of an Incident Support Base for the receipt and distribution of commodities, supplies and resources at Aguadilla Airport.
  • A Type 2 IMT (Zombro) and 23 two-person saw teams are coordinating with FEMA, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency regarding plans and priorities for emergency road clearing. Lack of ground transportation is delaying operations.
  • A Type 2 IMT from FDNY (Kane) is working with San Juan Fire Department to assess fire protection capabilities and needs.
  • Two Type 2 IMTs (Bird, Parrish) have arrived in Virgin Islands to establish and manage LSAs [Logistics Staging Areas] in St. Croix and St. Thomas to further distribute commodities and supplies to points of distribution on each island.
  • While not part of the ESF #4 [Emergency Services Function #4, firefighting] response, 52 Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers continue to support ESF #13 in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • A NIMO [National Incident Management Organization] (Quesinberry) is staged in Atlanta, GA, awaiting transportation to the U.S. Virgin Islands to support the Territory’s Emergency Operations Center in St. Thomas.
  • Nine two-person saw teams and overhead are staged in Harrisburg, PA; they are scheduled to fly to Puerto Rico on September 28.
  • Two Type 2 IMTs have been ordered to support LSAs and will arrive in Atlanta on September 29 and 30 to await transportation to the Puerto Rico/Virgin Islands region.

New York Task Force 1 Puerto Rico

A U.S. Navy Osprey delivers supplies in Puerto Rico. U.S. Navy Photo.