The heart of Hawaii’s historic Lahaina, destroyed in wildfire, reopens to residents and business owners

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) - The heart of Lahaina, the historic downtown Airportan island of maui that burned deadly wildfire which killed at least 100 people, reopened on Monday to residents and business owners holding day passes.

The renewed access marks an important emotional milestone for the victims of the August 8 fire, but much work remains to safely clean up and rebuild properties from charred debris.

Reopened areas include Banyan Tree Park, which is home to a 150 year old tree It burned down in a fire but is now sprouting new leaves, home to Lahaina's public library, an elementary school and popular restaurant.

The seaside stretch of Front Street, where the fire broke out in a traffic jam of cars trying to flee the city, reopened on Friday.

Officials continue to recommend that people entering burn areas wear protective gear to avoid hazards.

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On Sunday, the state health department released test results confirming ash and dust The material left over from the fire is toxic and arsenic is of greatest concern. The department said arsenic is a heavy metal that sticks to the dust and ash of wildfires.

The tests examined ash samples collected on November 7-8 from 100 properties built from the 1900s to the 2000s. High levels of lead were also found in the samples, which was used to paint houses built before 1978.

The cleaning work is still in the initial stage. Over the past few months, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has been removing batteries, propane tanks, pesticides and other hazards from more than 2,000 destroyed buildings in the city.

Residents and business owners have been able to visit their properties After the EPA cleared their lot. In some cases, residents – often wearing white full-body suits, masks and gloves found family heirlooms And souvenirs after sifting through the burnt debris of their homes.

The US Army Corps of Engineers will begin removing the remaining debris and moving it to a landfill After getting permission from the property owners.

The EPA and the state health department have installed 53 air monitors in Lahaina and upcountry Maui, where homes burned in a separate fire in early August. The department is urging people to avoid outdoor activity and close windows and doors when monitor levels show increased air pollution.

McAvoy reported from Honolulu.

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