Big Island Polls

Big Island Now poll results: Emergency access to communities needs improvement islandwide

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In looking at how emergency access could improve in communities, voters in the latest Big Island Now poll had one clear answer: build more roads.

Emergency access is top of mind 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 have only one way in and one way out.

Out of 472 votes, 251 voted to build more roads. Eighty-six people voted that all gated county roads be opened during an emergency and 87 people voted for a creation of evacuation plan on existing roads.

Waikōloa Village residents were forced to evacuate their community in 2021 during the Mana Road fire. The South Kohala community has a gated one-lane Waikōloa Village Hulu Evacuation Road, built in 2005, which is opened by the fire department in times of emergencies. 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.


The poll received several comments expressing opinions about roads in a variety of areas on the Big Island.

One reader wrote Hawaiian Acres has “a major ingress/egress that is in such a horrible, disrepair that most vehicles including Emergency vehicles cannot safely access it.”

The reader continued: “You cannot traverse this road safely! The county puts nothing into this road that they’ve collected taxes from for 60 + years!! Reinvest in communities, the families, people are ignored. Build the roads!”


One commenter wrote: “An Island-wide assessment needs to be conducted in each community to determine the viability of emergency egress in case of a fire or other emergency. Our neighborhood has several hundred people who live up Captain Cook Road who would be utterly trapped if a fire were to start on the highway below us and work it’s way up.”

See full poll results below:

  • Build more access roads. 251 (53%)
  • Open all gated county roads during an emergency. 86 (18%)
  • Create an evacuation plan with existing roads and practice it. 87 (18%)
  • Emergency access in my community is fine. 16 (3%)
  • I don’t know. 7 (1%)
  • Other. Write your solution to emergency access in the comments. 25 (5%)
  • Total Votes: 472

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