Lahaina residents will start visiting their fire-ravaged homes on Monday as authorities have determined that some areas of the burn zone are ready for entry, the Associated Press reported.
Residents have not returned to their homes since the deadly Maui wildfires destroyed their town nearly seven weeks ago. Emergency officials divided the burn zone into 17 separate sections, and they cleared the first area for residents to visit between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday, according to the AP. (RELATED: Hawaii Officials Pulled Firefighters Away Right Before Blaze Ramped Up)
“We’re just trying to have a system that we can manage and ensure the right people are going in,” Darryl Oliveira, the interim administrator of the Maui Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), said, according to ABC News. “Again, it’s with the utmost respect for the residents and property owners who need to go in, need to have that moment of closure, need that time to grieve.”
Residents will only be allowed to visit under government supervision for their first two trips to the burn zone so that officials, mental health and healthcare specialists and others can offer support, but will be permitted to return on their own starting with their third visit, according to ABC News. Nonprofit groups will offer residents personal protective equipment, including masks and coveralls, to keep visitors safe as they sift through the remains of their homes that may contain toxic ash, the AP reported.
“They anticipate some people will only want to go for a very short period of time, a few minutes to say goodbye in a way to their property,” Democratic Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said, according to the AP. “Others may want to stay several hours. They’re going to be very accommodating.”
At least 97 people died in the wildfires while others remain unaccounted for, ABC News reported. The wildfires damaged over 2,200 buildings, but the Environmental Protection Agency has only cleared 464 properties so far.
MEMA did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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