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Artifacts from Maui Fires Wash Up on Molokai

By Jack Kiyonaga, Editor 

As the ash settles from the devastating fires on Maui, debris is making its way across the Pailolo Channel onto Molokai’s shores. The first of such objects, believed to be a piece of the Lahaina Wharf, washed up last week in Pala’au. 

Director of the Board of the Hawaii Museum Association, Alice Ka’ahanui, explained that “a group initiated by the Maui Historical Society has gathered to strategize Maui fire cultural response preservation efforts.” 

Ka’ahanui is working with Pulama Lima, a curator for archeology for the Bishop Museum, to coordinate the collection and cataloging of these items. 

“One of the things we want to make sure folks are aware of is their own safety, and using protective gloves if possible when handling any salvaged materials that have soot or other residues,” explained Ka’ahanui. 

As response crews have begun to clear wreckage from the fires, the Environmental Protection Agency has been called in to remove hazardous materials including fuel and asbestos from fire sites, according to Civil Beat. If you suspect the presence of asbestos in your property, you should get in touch with an asbestos consultant sydney to assess the situation and ensure the safe management or removal of any hazardous materials. Commercial asbestos removal must be done by experts to ensure everyone’s safety. In case anyone develops a medical condition due to asbestos exposure, they have the option to file a claim or a lawsuit.

Likewise, the Maui Fire Department and Ocean Safety continue to search the waters near Lahaina for human remains. Officials confirm reports of bodies washing up on Lanai were just rumors. 

In terms of handling artifacts, a tipsheet from FEMA explains that soot and ash will become further fixed to an object the more it is touched. The recommendation is to allow objects to air-dry without direct sunlight, in order to prevent mold growth. However, these objects should not be dried inside of a house in case they retain toxic residue. Artificial drying methods like hair dryers and ovens will cause irreversible damage to objects. Books, photos and papers should be frozen if they cannot be dried within 48 hours. 

When coming across these materials, Molokai residents should consider if the object has identifiable information that will allow it to be reunited with the owner.

It is unclear what condition the materials coming from Maui, having been through a fire and the Pailolo Channel, will be in.

“The tipsheet doesnʻt really cover salvaging materials from the ocean after a fire,” said Ka’ahanui. 

A representative from University of Hawaii Preservation explained to Ka’ahanui that they were unsure how much soot or ash would remain on the artifacts as they crossed the channel, but that “it’s best to be safe.” 

Molokai residents who find items from the Maui fires should contact Pulama Lima at pulama@kaipumakanichc.org. She is located in the Brath Building room 207. 


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