By Wendy Osher, Maui Now
June 7, 2022, 4:01 PM HST
* Updated June 7, 4:07 PM
Two West Maui groups have joined forces to launch a fundraising campaign in an effort to build a new fire substation in Olowalu, with plans to gift it to the County of Maui.
The nonprofit charitable organization, West Maui Improvement Foundation and the West Maui Taxpayers Association are raising funds to develop the substation, in the hopes of protecting life and property from “ongoing notorious fires” that have occurred at or near the location over the past 15 years.
The WMIF reports that previous fires “have destroyed homes and endangered lives,” isolating the West Maui community from life-saving access to the Emergency Room at the Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku
“The economic consequences of road closures have been measured in dollars at over $1 million per hour and after four hours, it’s exponentially magnified by over 400% due to cancelled flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, and the myriad of trickle-down associated impacts,” according to the WMIF. The Foundation reflected on the potential impacts saying, “Isolation is potentially deadly. If one life is lost, how much is that worth?”
Multiple fires were sparked in August of 2018 when high winds from Hurricane Lane swept through the island, fanning wildfires in West Maui that charred 2300 acres.
West Maui residents are all too familiar with other incidents that have occurred over the years, forcing the closure of the Honooapiʻilani Highway for hours, and cutting off the main artery between West and Central Maui.
The organization reports that a similar effort to build and gift a station for the benefit of the community, made the Nāpili Fire Station a reality more than 30 years ago. According to County records, the Nāpili station was built in 1991, and currently has a total assessed value of $945,800, including $218,000 for the land and $727,800 for the building.
According to WMIF, the Olowalu station would be developed at a site selected by the Fire Chief, at an elevated location, approximately 200 yards up the road at the improved intersection of the Honoapiʻilani Highway near mile 14.5.
Modular building rendering. PC: via WMTA and WMIF.The organizations report that they are progressing toward a goal of getting the station built in less than a year through a land donation of two acres in Olowalu and a new cost saving modular station. A rendering shows a single bay, two bedroom station with an apparatus bay.
Modular building rendering. PC: via WMTA and WMIF.
The WMIF reports that ongoing advocacy by the foundation and the West Maui Taxpayers Association for an Olowalu Fire Station via a public-private partnership, led to a meeting last week that included participation from the WMIF, landowner Olowalu Homes Inc., the mayor, planning director and deputy, budget official, and deputy fire chief.
“There was a consensus at the meeting to begin necessary collaboration whereby the WMIF will raise all the necessary funds to develop a fire station,” the organization reports.
According to the organization, the goal is to have the proposed fire substation to be fully paid for with private funds while the County will initiate land use approvals. The end result would be County ownership with improvement gifted to it from WMIF. “That’s what we did at Nāpili. We have a proven track record,” the organization reports.
Next steps include:
Through the hard work and cooperation from the Maui Fire Department, the County of Maui, Olowalu Homes Inc., the Maui Taxpayers Association, Mahanalua Nui HOA Fire committee, and numerous other individuals and associations, the WMIF reports that progress is being made in bringing the substation to reality.
As of today, $16,313 has been raised toward a $2 million fundraising goal. According to fundraising solicitations, the organizations are also working with the mayor and the County of Maui, and are looking into federal and state grants and other private corporation donations.
“Time is of the essence, and we are launching our fundraising to achieve our mutual goals for improving our health and safety for our West Maui Community,” according to a press release announcing the plan. “This is a win-win for everyone.”
For updates and to make a donation, visit: https://linktr.ee/wmif
Property and station would be turned over to Maui County once it’s been constructed
Joseph Pluta describes the importance of adding a new fire station in Olowalu Friday afternoon as he stands near the site where the station is proposed to be built. The West Maui Taxpayers Association and West Maui Improvement Foundation are launching a $2 million campaign to build the substation on land in Olowalu that will eventually be turned over to the county. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
Longtime West Maui resident Joe Pluta said fires in Olowalu and nearby areas are inevitable, and it’s not a question of if it’s going to happen, but “how many times it’s going to happen?”
“It happens all the time. It’s notorious. It’s something everybody would dread,” Pluta said Friday, noting large fires in the past, including in 2018 and 2020, that burned homes, structures and thousands of acres. “Is it tonight that it’s going to happen? Or tomorrow? What are you going to do?”
Pluta and the organizations that he leads, the West Maui Improvement Foundation and West Maui Taxpayers Association, have embarked on an approximately $2 million campaign to build a fire substation in Olowalu.
Currently, Olowalu, Launiupoko and Ukumehame are all outside a 5-mile radius of the Lahaina Fire Station and are therefore at greater risk of fire and life safety, the organizations said.
With the private monetary help, in turn, the county will initiate land use approvals. The ultimate goal is to have the ownership of the property gifted to the county, according to a news release from the foundation.
“That’s what we did at Napili. We have a proven track record,” the West Maui Improvement Foundation added in its news release.
Some 20 years ago, the foundation raised around $4 million for the Napili fire station, which was gifted to the county, Pluta said.
At that time, Pluta, along with the late Maui architect Uwe Schulz and CPA Ron Kawahara, took out second mortgages on their homes to get funding for a construction loan.
The late Colin Cameron, chairman and president of Maui Land and Pineapple Co., donated the land for the Napili station, Pluta said.
The public, seeing the idea for a privately funded Napili station, wasn’t “all talk story,” got behind the idea and gave donations, Pluta said.
“We just need everyone to get excited about this,” Pluta said of the Olowalu fire station campaign. “The entire West Maui community is so important economically to the County of Maui. We cannot have a devastating fire again.”
Maui County’s administration, including the Maui Fire Department, backs the idea. A meeting was held on June 1 with the landowner, the mayor and county planning, budget and fire officials, who agreed to the collaboration.
“We definitely support the idea from WMIF and would like to see them be successful in completing this project,” Deputy Fire Chief Gavin Fujioka said Thursday.
“Having a fire station in Olowalu will allow MFD to have a quicker response to any emergencies in this general area. It’s somewhat in the middle of both bordering districts and this area is highly frequented by local residents and tourists,” Fujioka said.
He added that MFD is initially looking to have two personnel at the station, but more could be added in the future.
Getting a new fire truck for the station could take longer than two years, but a relief truck could be used in the meantime, Fujioka added.
Pluta said they allowed Fire Chief Brad Ventura to pick the site, which is approximately 200 yards mauka from the road at the improved intersection of Honoapiilani Highway near Mile Marker 14.5 and just mauka of Camp Olowalu.
The 2-acre parcel is owned by Olowalu Homes Inc., of which Pluta said developer Peter Martin is a major partner. Pluta added that if funds are raised for the station, Olowalu Homes will donate the land.
In an email Friday, Martin said he has been working with Pluta and has signed an agreement to donate land for the station in Olowalu.
While Martin “gets so much bad press,” Pluta said people shouldn’t steer away from the campaign, because the station was the organizations’ idea and the land that was picked just so happened to be Martin’s.
Pluta said that home and property owners in the area will benefit as first responders will be nearby and not only provide protection from fire but assist with medical emergencies.
That could also mean residents could see lower insurance rates, Pluta explained, pointing out that insurance rates are higher when homes are farther away from a fire station, and sometimes fire insurance won’t cover a home that is too far away.
In addition, donors to the project could benefit from tax deductions.
“It’s the best investment that you could make, period,” Pluta said.
The Lahaina Fire Station is 8.8 miles and a 15-minute drive from Olowalu General Store, according to Google Maps. The Wailuku Fire Station is 15.4 miles and a 25-minute drive from the store.
Pluta said the organizations are saving on the construction costs on the station as it will be a modular design, with the larger components built on the Mainland and shipped and assembled on-site.
This is why only around $2 million will be needed, he said. The Napili station was a brick-and-mortar building that cost $4 million at the time but would likely be much more expensive now, Pluta said.
For the Olowalu substation, the building process is quick, as it could take around 45 days for the parts to be built and shipped and another 75 days or so for the assembly on-site.
Donations may be made via check payable to the West Maui Improvement Foundation, with the fire station noted in the memo, and sent to WMIF, P.O. Box 10338, Lahaina, HI 96761.
Donations may also be made online via https://linktr.ee/wmif.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.
West Maui Improvement Foundation
P.O. BOX 10338, Lahaina, HI 96761 l Phone: 808-661-7990 l Fax: 808-661-7992
Federal tax identification number is 99-0275775
The Mission of the WMIF, with 501-C-3 Public Charity designation 170 (b) (1) (A) (vi) from the IRS,
is to improve the West Maui Community by receiving and expending funds
for the erection and maintenance of public buildings and services as well as community facilities.
WMTA – WMIF COMMUNITY -- UPDATE JUNE 2022--
A TIME TO COME TOGETHER WITH ALOHA = (Always, Love, Over Hate, Always)
or the past 15 years, we have discussed the need to address the ongoing notorious fires in Olowalu which have destroyed homes and endangered lives isolating our West Maui Community from the life- saving access to the Emergency Room at Maui Memorial Health Center Hospital in Wailuku. The economic consequences of road closures have been measured in dollars at over $1M per hour and after 4 hours, it’s exponentially magnified by over 400% due to cancelled flights, hotel rooms, rental cars, and the myriad of trickle-down associated impacts. Isolation is potentially deadly., If one life is lost, how much is that worth?
It has been established that the need for another fire station is greatest at Olowalu. Ongoing advocacy for another fire station in Olowalu via a public-private partnership has led to a historic meeting yesterday, June 1st with the Mayor, his Planning Director and Deputy Planning Director, Budget Chief, Deputy Fire Chief, and Landowner Olowalu Homes Inc. with the West Maui Improvement Foundation Inc.
There was a consensus at the meeting to begin necessary collaboration whereby the WMIF will raise all the necessary funds to develop a fire station at Olowalu at the site selected by the Fire Chief. That’s at an elevated location approximately 200 yards up the road at the improved intersection of Honoapiilani Highway near mile marker 14.5.
The flier “NEW OLOWALU FIRE STATION FUNDRAISER” is your opportunity to be a part of the solution!
The goal is to have the proposed Fire Sub Station to be fully paid for with private funds while the County will Initiate land use approvals to facilitate the end result of having the ownership of the property and improvement gifted to it from the WMIF. That’s what we did at Napili. We have a proven track record!
We agreed to work together towards the steps that need to be taken for this sorely needed lifesaving facility and to immediately undertake steps to do the following:
We all agreed that the MOU between WMIF and OHI for the land donation was a work in progress and that it would comply with a new tri-lateral agreement and be extended as long as may be necessary to accomplish the realization of the Facility to be gifted to the County to equip and staff with support of the County Council as may be required.
Time is of the essence, and we are launching our fundraising to achieve our mutual goals for improving our health and safety for our West Maui Community. This is a Win-Win for everyone. We have already done the impossible before. It’s time again. Visit our website for updates & donation links https://linktr.ee/wmif
Please accept our gratitude for your continued support!