Big Island Now poll no. 29: How can emergency access improve in communities?
Concerns over emergency access out of Big Island communities, particularly Waikōloa, increased after the 2021 Mana Road fire scorched 40,000 acres in South Kohala and forced the evacuation of 6,500 Waikōloa Village residents.
Those concerns have only heightened following the Aug. 8 Lāhainā wildfire where gridlocked traffic hindered thousands of people trying to escape the fast-moving blaze that killed at least 97 people.
Hawai‘i fire officials say the access issues that failed Lāhainā residents could easily happen on the Big Island. Deputy Fire Chief Eric Moller said many communities, including Waikōloa, have only one way in and one way out.
And while the South Kohala community does have the one-lane Waikōloa Village Hulu Evacuation Road, built in 2005, residents say it’s not enough, describing it as a temporary solution to a community’s worst nightmare of being trapped during a life-threatening emergency.