If you have been following the Maui news, you will have read about a number of large brush fires. Most recently (in the past week) there have been two large brush fires along the highway (locally known as the Pali) between Maalaea harbor and Lahaina. They have been close enough to the road to shut down the highway. As much of the land mountainside of the highway is inaccessible, fire fighters appear to be prioritizing protecting people and buildings, setting up a perimeter and then allowing the fire to burn itself out within the perimeter. At least that is what I can gather from the media.
The highway between Maalaea harbor and Lahaina is a one lane in each direction road that lies right next to the ocean. It is a gorgeous scenic road. However, if it is shut down, you may be stuck. There is no bypass. I have heard stories of people stuck on the Lahaina side who have missed their flights due to accidents or brush fires which have closed down the road. Last week people were sleeping in their cars or checking into shelters in Lahaina and Kahului overnight. Yes there is a way around the backside of the west Maui mountains. However, it is gnarly, narrow and one section is a one lane road (one lane, not one lane each direction). There are steep drop offs on one side, and it is generally a road to be avoided particularly if traffic is heavy (as it would be if the Pali is shut down).
Why all these fires? Maui has been experiencing a drought for the past five years. As such it is just more prone to fires. Hopefully we’ll get caught up on our rain sooner or later. In the mean time, please take care not to start any fires.
If you are wondering about the status of the Pali, check out the MauiWatch or MauiNow Facebook pages. They are pretty good about posting this kind of information.