Maui Fires - By the Numbers

Maui Wildfires Infographic – Long Description

Submitted by Jovanna Garcia, FEMA External Affairs Specialist

In the heart of Lahaina, heavy equipment rumbles and scoops up debris, lifting it into waiting trucks, where it is carefully wrapped to prevent leaks or spills, then hauled to a temporary debris storage site. Work crews are busy clearing the land lot by lot, preparing Lahaina for reconstruction and the return of its residents.

Removing debris from the 5-square-mile burn zone – with the permission of the property owners – is just one visible sign of the massive response to the Aug. 8 wildfires.

During the past six months, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has joined forces with other federal agencies, state and county officials, nonprofits and community leaders to help put Lahaina on a path to recovery that preserves its culture and strengthens its sense of community.

Since the wildfires, FEMA has invested more than $1.7 billion to assist in Maui wildfire recovery efforts. This includes funding critical projects administered by other agencies, such as:

  • Building a $53.7 million temporary school for the 600 students of King Kamehameha III Elementary School that is expected to open on April 1 (Army Corps of Engineers).
  • Removing debris from 25 properties in the Upcountry Maui (Army Corps of Engineers).
  • Negotiating a lease for a 63-acre site in the Lahaina area to construct 214 temporary housing units and install the necessary infrastructure (General Services Administration).
  • Raising 96 boats from the harbor, including a commercial submarine (Coast Guard).
  • Removal of more than 220 tons of hazardous materials (paints, solvents, oils and pesticides) and 30 tons of lithium batteries from the burn zone. (Environmental Protection Agency).

The post-wildfire cleanup is being done with an eye to public safety and vigilant monitoring of air, water and soil quality. Cultural experts and advisors were brought in to observe every facet of debris removal on each property. A federal Cultural Protocol Task Force was also formed to educate disaster workers and help them understand, respect and integrate local customs and practices in their work.

FEMA initially set up three Disaster Recovery Centers on Maui. The center at Lahaina Civic Center Gymnasium is still open. As of Feb. 4, there were more than 44,400 visits to the centers.

Already, $43.7 million was approved for 7,013 individuals and households that applied for FEMA assistance, while the U.S. Small Business Administration approved more than $290.7 million in low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters and businesses.

Maui’s limited housing market made finding shelter and long-term housing for survivors a challenge.

When the state arranged for the American Red Cross to manage emergency sheltering needs in Maui hotels and condos. FEMA funded the effort. About two-thirds of Lahaina residents required shelter. Today, there are nearly 5,000 survivors and 300-plus pets at 16 sites.

FEMA’s priority is to help people move from hotel rooms into longer-term housing, where they can stay for up to 18 months. To that end, FEMA has offered a Rental Assistance program (currently serving 270 households), and a Direct Lease program. FEMA has secured 1,404 leased and fully furnished properties for survivors and 162 families have been placed in these temporary homes to date.

One survivor, Corinne Bumanglag, said that moving into a longer-term, FEMA-funded temporary home has reduced the anxiety that has haunted her since the wildfires. Her partner, John, was at work when the fires overwhelmed Lahaina. She and her three boys barely escaped the first-floor unit the family was renting.

The Red Cross moved the family into a condo, but it was a short-term shelter arrangement. They had to stay packed in case they were asked to move. “I felt anxious, uncertain,” she said. FEMA contacted her family and offered a longer-term temporary home about 20 miles from Lahaina, in Wailuku through the Direct Lease program. The family accepted the offer, and earlier this year was able to move into a furnished three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home.

“It’s for 18 months, but that’s enough time to figure out a plan for the future,” Corinne said.

“I am finally happy.”