Maui Wildfire Re-Deployment

ROWW’s had the rare opportunity to plan out a deployment and with the help of locals and the influx of Hawaii relief-specific donations, we re-deployed a team of arborists to Maui as a follow up response to the devastating Lahaina Fire last summer. Since our initial deployment last August, we have maintained close contact with leaders and community members in Maui to assess progress and new needs. This winter, ROWW received a request for assistance with carrying out the Tree Recovery plan for the island.

When we landed in Hawaii and mobilized into Lahaina, we immediately noticed how eerily quiet it was. Very little work is currently being done here – the US Army Corps of Engineers and County of Maui was there, but no other NGO’s in Lahaina as of now. It was just ROWW and Treecovery working together in February.

All of ROWW’s work was sourced through Duane Sparkman of Treecovery and Kyle of Malama Kula. Our team focused on dangerous/dying trees that were near structures, historic sites, benches or otherwise needed to be taken down more carefully. We were able to participate in consultations of various trees from the top arborists on the island, including a consultation on the famous Lahaina Banyan Tree and which parts will survive and which areas will eventually need to be removed to promote continued health. Palms are especially hazardous because they are somewhat like grass and as they die, the trunks become mush. The canopy of a palm can weigh 1500 lbs, and when that comes falling down, it can be deadly and very destructive. To the untrained eye, many of the palms in the area look ok because they’re still green. So part of our job was to educate the property owners on the lifespan of their trees. The longer you wait to remove the tree, the more compromised the trunk becomes. This increases the probability of it falling uncontrolled in heavy winds and also makes it more difficult and dangerous to climb and remove later.

After spending several days in Lahaina, our team moved out to Kula where a second, lesser known fire burned last summer. We worked with an 80 year old man to remove trees that were threatening his last remaining structure/ temporary home. He lost several structures on his property including his house during the fire. He is a known figure in the community and is retired military.

On a different property, two 150′ mature Eucalyptus trees were dangerously towering over a guitar making workshop and home. These trees were some of the largest in town, but are badly burned, reaching end of life span and will not survive. They created a very dangerous situation for the well known guitar maker and anyone within the 150′ radius of the trees. The issue became between neighbors, as the eucalyptus tree is on an adjoining property and is dearly loved by the property owner. Our team along with a local arborist met with the homeowner,  educated her on the tree’s health and worked to explain the danger and liability being faced. Because of the caliber and scope of this job, there have been no other organizations capable or willing to do the removal at no cost. To have this job done at a later date would be unaffordable.

The homeowner was grateful to have ROWW help move forward in her recovery process and save an estimated $30,000 on this complicated and emotional project.