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Nearly six months after Maui fires, Kula residents rebuild with ‘community-driven’ approach

<i></i><br/>Nearly six months after the Maui fires
Lawrence, Nakia

Nearly six months after the Maui fires

By A’ali’i Dukelow

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    KULA, Hawaii (KITV) — At first glance, the Kula Sandalwoods Cafe and Inn appears to have emerged unscathed from the August wildfire.

Much of the property was spared from the inferno that torched more than a thousand acres and destroyed dozens of homes.

Kula residents recalled having to help battle the blaze themselves with their own trucks and water tanks as the fire department was spread thin fighting flames across the island.

“There were probably about 40, 50 neighborhood folks who really prevented more disaster and devastation,” Kula Sandalwoods owner James Worth remembered.

According to Worth, the Kula fire ignited right next door to his inn and burned about an acre of the property. Now, about half a year since the tragedy, some in upcountry feel the recovery efforts in Lahaina eclipsed Kula’s catastrophe — though understandably so since the damage and casualties were so severe on the west side.

“Seems like we got lost in the whole process,” Worth admitted, but said those in Kula have banded together to help rebuild their community the way they see fit.

“There’s been a lot of community support, a lot of volunteers with clean up, restoration, and so forth, so it’s been volunteer-driven,” Worth added.

Just as community members stepped up to fight the fire, they said they also took it upon themselves to help heal the land afterward.

Back in October, area residents began helping to cover the acre of scorched soil on Worth’s property with woodchips and mulch from Eucalyptus and Black Wattle trees. Now, about eight acres of land throughout Kula have been blanketed with the treatment, which withstood two recent Kona storms.

The Kula Community Watershed Alliance reported roughly 200 acres of Black Wattle trees were most of what burned in the blaze, so the group hopes the area will become more fire resistant as they remove more of the invasive plant.

Soon, the alliance plans to plant native trees with the hopes of growing a watershed-friendly forest to replace the fire-prone, non-native vegetation. However, the group is also still waiting on pending grants and have been relying on donations.

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