Maui County seeking public’s help to document vehicles incinerated in Aug. 8 fires

Maui County officials believe about 4,000 cars were incinerated during the devastating Aug. 8 wildfires.
Published: Oct. 16, 2023 at 10:23 PM HST|Updated: 9 hours ago
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui County is seeking the public’s help in identifying thousands of burned-out vehicles that were destroyed in the Aug. 8 wildfires.

Officials believe about 4,000 cars were incinerated in the fires but they need help documenting an estimated 1,000 of vehicles abandoned in public right-of-way areas.

Lahaina resident Noah Tomkinson abandoned his car on Front Street as flames tore through Lahaina.

“In terms of the current status of our car I really have no idea,” Tomkinson said. “[We grabbed] our bags. Got out of our car and jumped over the sea wall into the ocean to escape the fire.”

Others like Dr. John Janikowski from Lanai, who left his car in a parking lot, doesn’t even know if his car survived.

“The last time we saw the car was about a week before the fire,” Janikowski said. “We’re assuming it was totally demolished either by the flames or heat generated by the flames.”

As EPA crews begin the clean-up process in Lahaina, vehicles will also be removed from the streets.

“The vast majority of them are still in the area,” Maui County Chief of Communications and Public Affairs Mahina Martin said. “The time is now.”

But before crews start pulling vehicles out, the county says they need input from survivors.

“We want to give car owners or rental car companies time for themselves how they want to remove their vehicle,” Martin said.

They can do that by submitting a form online with the vehicle’s last known location, make and model.

The deadline to fill out the form is Oct. 27.

In certain cases, the county says it will work directly with insurance companies to identify cars and assist with getting damage assessments. And Maui officials have an urgent message for any owners of electric vehicles after being advised by the EPA of potential hazards.

“It’s very important that EV electric vehicle owners don’t try to go near their car, touch their car, go near their vehicles,” Martin said.

While some are eager to see if they can retrieve personal items, many others say they have lost more than their car.

“We’re very patient about finding exactly what’s going on with our vehicle, but that is nothing compared to what people are going through and what they are still going through.”