Key Messages: Hawai‘i Wildfires Response

USACE Media Line: 808-835-4062

USACE Debris Call Center: 877-214-9117

(DATED May 21, 2024)




  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers brings unique capabilities to the Hawai‘i wildfires response. We are just one piece of the much larger federal family actively supporting recovery efforts.
  • Public safety is our highest priority, and we are committed to minimizing risks to the public while respecting the people, culture and environment of Hawai‘i.
  • USACE is working with the state of Hawai’i, Lahaina-based community leaders, cultural leaders, kupuna (elders) and other statewide native Hawaiian organizations to ensure we understand and respect the rich culture of the community.  
  • We share our deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones and the people of Hawai‘i whose homes, businesses and communities were impacted by the wildfires.


  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is here at the request of FEMA and was given mission assignments to remove fire debris from the towns of Lahaina and Kula, prepare a temporary housing group site and to build the temporary King Kamehameha III Elementary School.
  • To date, we have had more than 1,125 employees volunteer from across the nation to support the people of Maui in their recovery efforts. We currently have around 112 people on Maui actively supporting the recovery and about 45 across the nation, supporting in a remote capacity.
  • Maui County's comprehensive website for information and resources for survivors of the Hawai‘i wildfires is MauiRecovers.org.

Commander’s Priorities

  • Be safe
  • Be an ambassador for USACE
  • Be accountable
  • Be respectful of cultural sensitivities


Temporary Housing

  • USACE received a FEMA mission assignment Oct. 28, 2023, to provide conceptual design, site preparation, and construction for temporary housing. FEMA is responsible for the procurement and installation of the actual temporary housing units. Our contractor began site preparations began May 6.
  • USACE developed a site plan for 169 temporary homes in Lahaina, and we issued a contract April 11 to begin installing the infrastructure necessary to place homes and welcome survivors. (Aktarius, LLC dba Dawson AKT is the contractor.)
  • The housing site will consist of grading 34 acres of land near Lahaina, off of Fleming Road, and then installing the water and sewer lines, electricity and streets to support the temporary group site.
  • The site is on hard rock, so blasting will need to be done to install utilities and grade the site. Blasting will be done by Blasting Technology, Inc., of Kihei, Hawaii.
  • The contractor will be doing blasting once a day between 2-4 p.m., weather permitting, Monday through Saturday, for approximately the next 65 days. Prior to and during the blast, traffic will be stopped on the cane haul access road.
  • Starting around the middle of July we anticipate closures to Flemming Road, while our contractor works on the sewer extension. Alternate routes will need to be used when portions of Fleming Road. are under construction. At this time, we do not have exact dates as to when this will be.
  • It will take approximately six months to complete construction of the site due to the size of the project and the need to install the infrastructure on hard rock, which will most likely require blasting and heavy earthwork.
  • FEMA will begin placing temporary housing units on the site once the infrastructure is finished.

Debris and Ash Removal

  • The Hawai‘i wildfire cleanup requires a coordinated removal effort that includes FEMA, USACE, the EPA, the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency and Maui County.
  • We received a FEMA mission to remove debris from residential, commercial and public parcels in the towns of Lahaina and Kula Aug. 28, 2023.
  • We encourage property and business owners who want to participate in the debris removal program to contact Maui County to fill out a right-of-entry form.
  • The cleanup process includes two phases. Phase 1 includes items such as site assessments, hazardous household material removal, and bulk asbestos material removal, and Phase 2 is removal of other fire-related debris, such as ash, hazardous trees and concrete foundations.
  • Cultural monitoring is being conducted at all times to help protect the cultural heritage of Hawai‘i and Native Hawaiian people. Native Hawaiian, Maui-based cultural advisors are leading these efforts throughout the process.
  • Property owners who have questions about private property debris removal may call our debris call center at (877) 214-9117.
  • We are working through our issue resolution process to address concerns related to damaged associated to the debris cleanup.


  • USACE and our partners began Phase 2 debris removal in Kula Nov. 7, 2023, and successfully completed that effort Jan. 19.
  • We cleared ash and debris from 25 Kula properties.
  • All wildfire debris removed from Kula was delivered to the Central Maui Landfill.


  • USACE and our partners began Phase 2 debris removal in Lahaina Jan. 16.
  • As of May 21, 2024, we have cleared around 1075 residential properties of debris and 25 commercial properties.
  • As of May 21, 2024, we have Completed around 521 properties and returned them to the county.
  • Note: The big “C” refers to properties that are returned to the county, and the little “c” is properties that have been cleared from ash and debris.
  • As of May 21, 2024, we have removed nearly 2,365 damaged vehicles.


  • Our goal, along with our federal, state and local partners is to preserve as many of the remaining trees in the impacted areas as possible.
  • USACE contracted with registered foresters and arborists that partnered with Maui County to complete Hazardous Tree Assessments in the impacted areas.
  • Trees that pose an imminent falling threat into the public right-of-way, or that present a hazard to workers or the work zone, have been marked for removal. Unmarked trees will not be removed.
  • Property owners are encouraged to document on their right-of-entry form, any trees on their property that they want to keep. Maui County arborists will review these requests with their federal, state and local partners and provide a determination.

Temporary Debris Disposal Site

  • We are moving the debris from Lahaina to the Olowalu Temporary Debris Disposal Site, located just east of Lahaina.
  • Holding Statement for environmental concerns.
    • We are aware of concerns raised regarding water runoff at the Olowalu Temporary Debris Disposal Site. We and our contractor installed mitigation controls to manage storm water and site water appropriately using best management practices to protect the environment. We strive to ensure all our activities are in accordance with best practices to ensure the safety of our employees, contractors, community and the environment. We are working in coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others to support the state of Hawai‘i and the county of Maui as they recover from the wildfires.

Deferred Properties

  • If a property is marked “Deferred” or “Partially Deferred,” it means there is a safety hazard on the site such as a standing wall or fire-damaged tree that could collapse or fall. USACE will not allow our workers to enter that site until the safety hazard is mitigated.
  • Once the site is made safe, we will proceed with Phase I assessment, removing hazardous materials, hazardous household waste and bulk asbestos materials. When we have cleared the environmental or hazardous issue, we will remove any deferred signs and the property owner will be allowed re-entry to their property prior to Phase 2 debris removal.

Insurance and Paying for Non-eligible Debris

  • Neither USACE nor our contractors collect money or insurance proceeds from property owners for debris removal.
  • Insurance questions are not in USACE’s purview. Property owners are strongly encouraged to contact the county of Maui and their insurance company directly for specific details regarding insurance settlements.

Debris Ash Concerns and Air Monitoring

  • USACE is dedicated to minimizing the dust produced from debris removal operations. Our contractor is using a water-spraying method to eliminate the material from becoming airborne.
  • The USACE prime contractor, Environmental Chemical Corporation, completed an air monitoring and surveillance plan that was accepted by Hawai‘i Department of Health.
  • USACE Contractors have real-time perimeter air monitors adjacent to work locations. If there are exceedances of action levels, the contractor will stop work, assess, and remediate the situation as necessary, before restarting work.
  • The air monitoring program is being overseen by an ECC certified industrial hygienist. Calibrated air sampling pumps are used to collect personal exposure samples for asbestos, metals, and respirable dust/crystalline silica. We will use the results of these tests throughout the debris removal process to assess the appropriate personal protective equipment, or PPE, that needs to be used by site workers.
  • Contractors entering the “hot zone,” or ash footprint, are required to be in Tyvek suits and half-face respirators since they are working directly in the debris zone and moving about in the ash.
  • Workers immediately outside the hot zone as delineated by the contractors with red marking tape, are not moving about in the ash, and therefore, not required to be in Tyvek suits.
  • All workers at minimum are required to be in hard hat, safety shoes, safety glasses, and reflective vest.
  • USACE contractors are using dust reduction methods that have been derived from lessons-learned from multiple successfully executed debris removal events from the past few years.
  • Residents concerned about the long-term health risks due to the fires are encouraged to contact the Hawai‘i State Department of Health.

King Kamehameha III Elementary School

  • We received a FEMA mission assignment Sept. 13, 2023, to support the State of Hawai‘i and the Hawai‘i Department of Education to design and oversee installation of a temporary elementary school campus for the Lahaina community.
  • Installation of the temporary school in West Maui began Nov. 20, 2023.
  • USACE and our partners installed the temporary King Kamehameha III Elementary School in 95 days, and the school reopened to approximately 350 students April 1.
  • USACE placed all 336 modular units that make up 38 buildings, to include 30 air-conditioned classrooms. The additional buildings include restrooms, a dining room, community space, administrative space, a learning resources space and more.
  • We learned of a water quality concerns April 5 and had staff onsite the following morning. With the help of FEMA, EPA, and Maui County, we identified that the concern was due to stagnant water not cycling through the system.
  • The water was stagnating because the system was designed for roughly 600 students as opposed to the 350 currently enrolled. To rectify the situation, USACE installed new flushing valves the weekend of April 27-28, 2024.
  • The water was tested for a variety of concerns to include e-coli and coliform using what is known as a Bac-T test. This test was conducted several times and results continued to be negative. Further, it was tested for other compounds such as paints, cleaners and pesticides with a water test that is often referred to as a VOC and SVOC test. Again, the results were negative and meets all Hawai‘i water quality standards.
  • The water was again tested after the installation of the new flushing values, and the results were negative and meet all Hawai‘i water quality standards.
  • USACE has a small number of punch list items left on the school and will continue working on these items after the school year ends.
  • USACE is continuing to work with the Hawai‘i Department of Education to ensure the health and welfare of the students.


  • You are always on the record, and it is quite possible you will be recorded.
  • Do not share classified or sensitive information.
    • Response = command message + talking point ​NOTE: Command messages assert the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers position, talking points provide facts.
  • Stay in your lane: Speak only about the things you have the authority and knowledge to address; provide PAO contact information if outside your lane.
  • Do not say “no comment.”
  • Avoid jargon: Speak plainly and avoid acronyms.
  • Stick to the facts and, if possible, correct factual errors.
  • It’s okay to ask to “start over.”
  • It’s okay to say, “I don’t know.”
    • Wrong info is worse - don’t speculate. Offer to connect them with PAO, so they can get back to the reporter with the information they are seeking.

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