A Disaster Waiting to Happen

Fire response time to west Molokai upwards of half an hour.

West-end residents Suzy and Jay Wakefield (center and right) have been on a mission for three years: to get a fully-functioning fire station for West Molokai.

The Wakefields recently discovered that they are paying around $1200 in annual fire insurance, as are all of their fellow tenants at Kaluakoi resort. Kaluakoi condominium resort, as well as neighboring Ke Nani Kai and Paniolo Hale, is in a zone 10- the worst rating a property can get and still be insurable. West Molokai features extremely arid landscape punctuated by scrub-brush and long grass; it is in the rain-shadow of East Molokai, and has been facing an extended, decade-long drought.

While the Wakefields say $1200 is a steep price to pay, their real concern is that their money is going to an off-island insurance company rather than to the salaries of firefighters who could be protecting the whole western half of the island.

“Many of us are temporary residents here, but we pay year-round taxes for the privilege of being able to live here several months of the year,” said one of the Wakefield’s neighbors, who asked not to be named. “Even if we’re not here in July, for example, if there’s a fire that threatens these structures, well, that could be a disaster for the whole west end.”

There are roughly 100 homes on the west end of Molokai- including Maunaloa town- as well as roughly 350 condominium units in the Popahaku-Kaluakoi area. Molokai’s three other fire stations, at Ho`olehua, Kaunakakai, and Kilohana, are all in very close proximity to Molokai’s elementary schools. Maunaloa elementary and it’s 55 students however, do not enjoy such a close proximity to emergency services.

Several west-end residents were instrumental in notifying the fire department when a 50-acre brush fire erupted suddenly on March 1, and residents like Kaluakoi’s Chuck Webb run periodic fire drills in the condominium to keep the residents sharp and alert.

“We have a great community out here that has always been willing to help each other out – we’ve even managed to get a free fire truck from the Anaheim police department – but at some point you have to figure the County should step in and take some leadership on this”, says Tim Wakefield; “they (the mayor’s council) do a great job with Molokai for the most part, but we really think this part of the island has been neglected as far as this service is concerned.”


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