Some Lahaina residents allowed to return to deadly wildfire burn zone

On Monday, some Lahaina residents will be allowed to go into the burn zone to see what’s left of their homes.
Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 4:03 PM EDT
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow/Gray News) - Some Hawaii residents were allowed to go into the wildfire burn zone on Monday to see what’s left of their Lahaina homes.

Those who lived in Zone 1-C on Kaniau Road were allowed in from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

It’s the first time residents have been escorted in since the Aug. 8 fires.

Residents going into the burn zone Monday were given a bag from the Maui Department of Health (DOH) that includes items like gloves, goggles and personal protective equipment, or PPE, that covers the entire body from the feet all the way up to the head.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, with the Maui DOH, said it’s the bare minimum to ensure safety for people going into buildings.

The concern is with toxic dust or soot from the August fires that melted through things like TVs and walls. That soot is now believed to be lying on the ground with potential toxins.

Pang said they don’t know just how dangerous the toxic dust might be or if there are long-term health risks that come with exposure.

“They want to go in. There’s going to be dust. How much dust is too much dust? We do not know,” Pang said. “I would tell them, ‘Read what happened after 9/11.’ They thought there would not be long-term side effects, but the cancers show way later for people who worked that day.”

The Maui DOH hopes to have around 7,000 of the PPE bags ready for Monday.

Officials said they are getting help from the Boy Scouts of America to put them together.

Pang pointed out that PPE is not meant to be used more than once. If it is, it could do more harm than good.