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Monday, August 14, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs, Monday, August 14, 2023

This was Kaʻū, not Maui, last November and local firefighters said Pāhala was fortunate that the wind direction was slightly in favor of skirting the town of wooden plantation houses. Otherwise, it could have gone up in flames. The county is calling for everyone to take more fire prevention action, as the fatality count on Maui rises to 99. Photo by Julia Neal

HAWAIʻI COUNTY COMMUNITY IS URGED TO PRIORITIZE FIRE SAFTEY awareness and preparedness. Hawaiʻi Fire Department Chief Kazuo Todd and Mayor Mitch Roth issued a statement Monday in light of the recent fires on Hawaiʻi Island and the ongoing crisis in Maui County. "Fire safety is a collective responsibility, and all individuals have a kuleana to take proactive measures to mitigate
wildfire risks in their residences and neighborhoods. By adhering to key fire safety practices, individuals can substantially diminish the potential impact of wildfires." Recommended steps include:
    Adopt Firewise Practices: Establishing a defensible space around your residence, which entails maintaining a safe distance between trees, shrubs, and other flammable vegetation, can drastically curtail the spread of fires to your property. For comprehensive guidance on Firewise practices, please refer to the resources available on the Hawaiʻi Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO) webpage.
    Reduce Waste and Flammable Items: Proper disposal of waste and the removal of flammable items around your property are pivotal in averting accidental fires. Residents are advised to securely store firewood, propane tanks, and other combustible materials away from their homes and structures.
    Install and Maintain Smoke Alarms: Ensuring the installation of smoke alarms on each floor of your home and conducting monthly tests are imperative. Batteries should be replaced as needed to guarantee optimal functionality.
    Create and Practice a Family Emergency Plan: The creation and regular rehearsal of a family escape plan, complete with two exit routes from every room and a designated outdoor meeting point, are vital components of comprehensive fire preparedness.
    Stay Informed and Educated: Residents are encouraged to access additional resources, tips, and information related to fire safety and preparedness on the HWMO webpage and the Civil Defense website. To receive real-time Hawaiʻi County emergency alerts and updates, individuals can sign up for the Everbridge notification system.
    "The recent events weigh heavy on our hearts and serve as poignant reminders of the profound impact that wildfires can have on our communities," said the Mayor. "We have seen how quickly the fires devastated Maui and truly believe that a unified community effort can yield meaningful results in safeguarding homes, families, and our 'āina. We have the privilege of working toward prevention, and we encourage all of our residents to take advantage of this guidance for the safety of us all."
    The Mayor extended gratitude to the community for attentiveness to this pressing matter. For further inquiries or assistance, residents are encouraged to reach out to the Hawaiʻi Fire Department or explore the provided online resources.

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A MORATORIUM ON SELLING PROPERTY IN THE DEVASTATED AREAS OF MAUI is proposed by Gov. Josh Green. He said on Monday that he has asked the Attorney General "to explore options to do a moratorium on any sales of properties that have been damaged or destroyed. "Moreover, I would caution people that it's going to be a very long time, before any growth, or housing can be built. And so, you
would be pretty poorly informed if you try to steal land from our people and then build here." He said he envisions the place to become a memorial for all that was lost there.
   In the meantime, two class action lawsuits have been filed, blaming the electric company, contending that failing to turn off the power during the high winds energized the fires and contributed to the firestorm. Some of the law firms involved are litigating suits concerning deadly fires in California.
    Hawaiian Electric CEO Shelee Kimura addressed the devastation of the electrical system in West Maui during a press conference Monday, acknowledging the grief over the loss of life experienced by the Hawaiian Electric ‘ohana, many of them impacted by the tragedy. She reported progress in bringing electricity to Lāhainā Civic Center and hotels that can be used to house displaced people and recovery workers.
    Department of Hawaiian Home Lands Chair Kali Watson said "In the aftermath of the wildfires, DHHL is involved in rebuilding homes and infrastructure" and that his agency will consider "how to build in a way that would be more resilient to future fires and storms." The statement from his office says, "DHHL is committed to meeting the needs of our community and will work alongside federal, state and county leaders to ensure beneficiaries are safe, sheltered and have access to necessities. The Department has allocated resources and funds to support recovery efforts. This requires both immediate crisis management funding and longer-term planning to ensure sustainable recovery.
     The devastating Lāhainā wildfires consumed two homes at DHHL Villages of Leialiʻi, which consists of 104 residential lots. 

Kaʻū High School Alumni & Friends annual Potluck Reunion on Sunday, Aug. 20 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Pāhala Community Center. Everyone who supports the school is invited. Photo by Julia Neal

ALL FRIENDS OF KA‘Ū HIGH SCHOOL ARE INVITED to the Kaʻū High School Alumni & Friends annual Potluck Reunion on Sunday, Aug. 20 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Pāhala Community Center. Live music will be provided by Calvin Ponce. Kumu Hula Debbie Ryder and her Hālau Hula ‘O Leionalani will perform from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Bring a favorite dish to share.

5,000 in the mail, 2,500 on the street.