Hawai‘i Congressional Delegation Urges President Biden To Make All Federal Resources Available, Move Quickly To Issue Disaster Declaration As Fires On Maui, Hawai‘i Island Continue To Burn
HONOLULU – As devastating wildfires on Maui and Hawai‘i Island continue to burn, U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawai‘i) and U.S. Representatives Ed Case (D-Hawai‘i) and Jill Tokuda (D-Hawai‘i) urged President Joe Biden to act swiftly to make all federal resources available and approve any request for a presidential disaster declaration. The declaration will help ensure that the affected communities can access important federal funding and resources to recover.
“We request your help to expedite all federal assistance possible to help the state recover from devastating fires in Maui and Hawai‘i counties. Communities in both counties will need substantial support to recover from fires that are devastating some of the State’s most iconic cultural and economic centers,” the delegation wrote in their urgent letter to President Biden.
Full text of the letter follows and is available here.
Dear President Biden:
We request your help to expedite all federal assistance possible to help the state recover from devastating fires in Maui and Hawai‘i Counties. Communities in both counties will need substantial support to recover from fires that are devastating some of the State’s most iconic cultural and economic centers.
Responders on the ground may need federal support for logistics and transportation during and after the response effort, including mobilization of assistance under Emergency Management Assistance Compact and other state-to-state assistance and resources. For your reference, we are reaching out directly to the Secretaries of Departments with disaster and emergency authorities for relevant aid, and we will continue to update our request for federal assistance as events unfold. Further, we ask that you consider these disastrous fires in the formulation of any request you might make for domestic disaster funding.
On August 8, 2023, fires caught and spread under red flag weather conditions in the Kohala region of Hawai‘i County, and in western and central Maui. Through out the day, both counties were able to keep fire under control, but in the evening, the situation turned for Maui. All efforts are currently hampered by high winds, damaged infrastructure, disruptions to utilities and communications, and the fire itself. Notably, the Maui County Fire Department estimated approximately 100 people entered the water at the beach in Lahaina, Maui to escape the advance of the fire, hospitals are under stress to keep up with injured residents, and eye witnesses have reported almost total devastation. In Hawai‘i County, the Kohala Ranch fire burned in excess of 600 acres of state and private land. It threatened approximately 200 homes in and around Kohala Ranch, in addition to a volunteer fire department, local transmission lines, and an AT&T Cell tower in the area. Mandatory evacuations took place for approximately 500 people. The situation is evolving, and a full report of the damage is not yet possible.
In particular, we request your urgent attention on the following items to assist with the response on Maui and Hawai‘i Counties:
- Issuing a federal disaster declaration upon the request of the State to enable FEMA emergency response and recovery programs; and
- Exercise of your Title 32 authority upon the request of the State to allow federal payment for the mobilization of the HI-ANG to respond to and recover from the fires.
We are grateful for the prompt attention that the federal government has given Hawai‘i for prior
disasters, and we hope that you will continue to support our state’s needs in response to these most recent disastrous fires.