More than two months after devastating wildfires charred parts of Maui, Hawaii, a portion of the island will soon reopen.
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said earlier this month that all of West Maui would reopen for business and tourism on Oct. 8. But Mayor Richard Bissen modified that plan, instead opting for a phased approach that allows a small section of the island to reopen first with the rest of the region — including disaster-stricken Lahaina — to reopen at a later date.
The move comes following impassioned discussions about when tourists should be welcomed back to the area following the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. Bissen acknowledged it's a decision that "isn't for everyone," but said the scheduled reopening is voluntary.
"The Red Cross has assured me that housing for displaced Lahaina residents, including those staying in hotels, is not in jeopardy," he said in a statement. "In addition, the County has a commitment from other partners to work on developing child care programs for displaced families. Sheltering close to 7,000 survivors remains a critical focus of our efforts and their needs are our priority. I appreciate the help our hotels have provided these past several weeks, and we’ll continue to work together with the hotel properties and American Red Cross."
West Maui is home to some 11,000 hotel rooms and relies heavily on tourism to fuel the local economy. While some residents have petitioned to delay the reopening, Bissen says anyone who doesn't feel comfortable with going back to work should talk to their employer.
"I know we are grieving, and it feels too soon. But the reality is there are those in our community who are ready to get back to work," Bissen said. "Bills need to be paid."
Wildfires tore through the Maui town of Lahaina in August and left nearly 100 people dead. Thirty people are still reported missing, and over 2,000 structures — many of which were homes and apartments — were completely destroyed in the fires.
Trending stories at Scrippsnews.com