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Safety Preparations for Re-entry to Disaster Area

Last updated March 13, 2024

Multiple operations have been coordinated to support reentry to the disaster-impacted areas. The following information provides details on the current status of those efforts.

Structure Safety Assessments

Assessing structures' damage and safety concerns after a natural disaster is an essential step in the early stages of recovery. Structure Safety Assessments allow residents to reoccupy safe homes and businesses and prevent people from entering unsafe structures.

A team of certified professionals has conducted structure safety assessments for all structures within the fire-impacted area, and colored placards, either green, yellow, or red, have been posted to each property. The placards correspond to the structure’s safety status.  

The interactive map below allows users to view the results of the Structure Safety Assessments by entering their property’s address into the map’s search bar.

(Note: Red placards were not placed at completely lost parcels, but those parcels will be identified with a red dot on the interactive map.)

IMPORTANT: The Structure Safety Assessments only assess a building’s structural safety. Although a building may have a green or yellow placard, other hazards, such as inactive sewer service and/or unsafe water advisory, may still apply at these properties. It is important to look up the status of these utilities on the water and wastewater service page for further information.


Understanding the Colored Placards

Colored placards have been placed at each inspected property. Placards are used by inspectors under the following circumstances:

Red Placard (Unsafe)

The building is unsafe to enter or use; severe injury or death could result. The building is a collapse hazard, may be crushed by an adjacent building, or contains one or more hazardous conditions. The placard is not a demolition order. Permission to enter can only be obtained from the Building Official. The building may or may not be repairable; consult with a licensed engineer or architect to determine the next steps.

Note: Properties contributing to the National Historic Landmark District that have been assigned a red placard cannot start demolition work right away due to their designation. More info will be provided soon.

What to expect when restrictions are lifted for your neighborhood

The recommendations on this page are informational and general in nature. The contents herein are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice. It is the county’s goal to provide information to assist the largest number of people based on current environmental conditions, however for direction specific to you and any pre-existing medical conditions you may have, please contact a licensed medical professional.

Hazard Advisory for Properties in the Burn Area

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Health and Safety Precautions

Air Quality Monitoring

Results from preliminary air sampling and air monitoring conducted in Lahaina and Upcountry Maui are reassuring, according to the State Department of Health (DOH). The results do not show evidence of poor air quality or any hazardous levels of contaminants in the air at the time the samples were collected.

DOH has closely collaborated with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to analyze preliminary, unvalidated data from baseline air monitoring conducted by the EPA in Lāhainā and Upcountry Maui to prepare this summary.

In addition to the baseline air sampling conducted, EPA and DOH installed 13 real-time PM2.5 sensors in Lāhainā and Upcountry Maui following the wildfires. These monitors scan for a very fine, dust-like material called “Particulate Matter” or PM 2.5, which is indicative of ash and dust.

Contaminants of concern, such as metals like lead or arsenic, stick to the pieces of ash and dust that register as particulate matter. Because of this, air monitoring for PM2.5 can be used as an indicator for contaminant monitoring. If PM2.5 measurements are not above typical baseline levels (remain in the green zone), then ash and dust from the impacted areas, with their associated contaminants, are not in the air in any measurable amount that would be considered harmful.

Air quality data can be viewed at the AirNow Fire and Smoke Map at https://fire.airnow.gov/.

As contaminants are present in dust and ash, proper precautions should be taken when in the impacted area to avoid exposure. This is also important in instances where the ash and dust may be disturbed such as in high winds, when sifting through ash, during clean-up or when heavy machinery is used to remove debris.

Hazard Advisory for Individuals Returning to Impacted Areas

The impacted area and its surroundings are hazardous with unstable structures, sharp metal objects and ash with potentially toxic substances. Children and pregnant people are at higher risk from the debris hazards and should not enter the impacted area or help with clean-up efforts. Enter at your own risk.

Protect Yourself

Adults should use protective gear in impacted areas, including face masks, goggles and gloves, long-sleeves, pants, socks and shoes (including disposable shoe coverings) to avoid skin contact with ash. Cloth masks will not protect you from ash. Instead, DOH recommends wearing tight-fitting respirators or masks – look for words NIOSH or N95 printed on the mask. Remember, no mask is effective unless it fits and is worn properly.

Reduce Exposure to Ash & Hazardous Materials

Debris and ash may include lead, asbestos, arsenic, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), dioxins or other hazardous substances. Dust, dirt, and soot can become airborne if disturbed, causing a risk of inhalation and exposure to these chemicals.

Avoid washing ash into storm drains. Do not use vacuums or leaf blowers that will push more ash and dust into the air. Please DO NOT EAT while in the impacted area, but remember to take breaks often and drink plenty of water. Keep your water bottles away from the ash and dust to avoid any ingestion.

Do not dispose of ash or debris at landfills, in dumpsters, or at transfer stations. Removal of hazardous material from the impacted area will be coordinated by authorities.

Be Aware of Trees, Power Lines, or Other Hazards

Trees may be identified as hazards due to the fire. Even if power has not been restored to your neighborhood, downed power lines should be avoided. Unstable buildings and structures could collapse and cause injury. Nails and other pieces of sharp metal can cause injury – even through shoes. If you identify that an area is unsafe, leave and report the hazard to authorities. For more information from the State DOH, visit its Maui Wildfire Response page.

Drinking Water

  • Unsafe Water Advisories are currently in place in the fire-impacted areas. The Maui County Department of Water Supply (DWS) is working closely with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to lift the advisory. Due to repeated testing, and repairs on broken infrastructure, this will take time to restore.
  • Do NOT drink your tap water and do NOT try to treat the water yourself.  
  • Boiling, freezing, filtering, adding chlorine or other disinfectants or letting water stand will not make the water safe. If volatile organic compound (VOC) contamination is suspected or detected, boiling water could release VOCs into the air.
  • Bottled water or potable water provided by the Maui County Department of Water Supply (DWS) must be used for drinking (including making baby formula and juice), brushing teeth, making ice, and food preparation.
  • Do not use tap water for any consumptive purpose, including drinking, cooking, making ice or brushing your teeth.
  • Use cold water to wash clothing or other items and dry laundry outdoors.
  • Take showers instead of baths and limit shower time. Use lukewarm water and ventilate the area.
  • Use a dishwasher to wash dishes. Turn it to the air dry setting.
  • Do not use pools or hot tubs.
  • Use proper ventilation when using water indoors.
  • Water buffalos providing potable water have been set up in several areas.
  • View a map and additional details about the current status of drinking water on the Water and Wastewater information page.

Wastewater

  • Some wastewater infrastructure was also damaged during the fires and many properties may be without wastewater service.
  • View a map and additional details about the current status of wastewater water on the Water and Wastewater information page.
  • If the Wastewater Service maps show that you do not have functioning sewer service, please do NOT flush toilets or allow water down any household drain. Although your toilet may flush and water may drain initially, if the service is not functional, you risk eventual sewage backing up in the house.

Returning to Inhabit Your Standing Home/Business

A fire in a home or business can cause serious damage. The building and many of the things in your structure may have been badly damaged by flames, heat, smoke and water. You may find things that the fire did not burn but are now ruined by smoke and damaged by water used to extinguish the fire. Anything that you want to save or reuse will need to be carefully cleaned. Cleanup and restoration will take time and patience.

Handling Non-Structural Fire Debris

Property owners should exercise caution and use proper protective equipment when handling any ash or hazardous materials from their standing property. Improper handling and disposal can be harmful to property owners, children and the general public. Small-scale sifting through ashes to locate any remaining personal items will not impact a residents' ability to participate in the Phase 2 ROE debris removal program. However, unauthorized large scale removal of debris and ash should be coordinated with government officials prior to removal. Failure to do so could jeopardize your eligibility in the Consolidated Fire Debris Removal Program.

FAQs for Safety Info for Returning to your Property

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