Army Corps of Engineers Leaders Visits Hawai’i Wildfires Recovery Response, People, and Projects

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Commanding General and 55th Chief of Engineers Lt. Gen. Scott Spellmon, accompanied by Command Sgt. Maj. Douglas Galick, recently visited the Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Field office team on the island of Maui. The visit, which took place on June 12, aimed to assess the ongoing progress of USACE missions in support of the Kula and Lahaina, Maui community.

The officials, along with County of Maui Mayor Richard Bissen, FEMA’s Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) for the mission, Curtis Brown and other local, state, and federal officials, began with an aerial tour of the impacted areas in Kula and Lahaina, Hawaii, led by Col. Eric Swenson, the Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Field Office commander. This tour provided an up-to-date overview of the progress made on USACE missions in supporting the Maui community’s recovery efforts.

Kara Vick, a mission manager for the critical public facilities during the Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Mission, oversees the placement of a module for the Federal Emergency Management Agency assigned temporary elementary school in Lahaina on Maui. USACE PHOTO BY CAROL E. VERNON

After the aerial tour, local media representatives joined the officials at the Kilohana temporary housing site for a presentation on the assigned Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) housing mission. Spellmon, along with other leaders and subject matter experts from USACE, participated in interviews about the project following the presentation.

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“What I saw is progress,” Spellmon said. “It was great to get up in the air today and see that progress, but I want to add that on behalf of the thirty-eight thousand Men and Women in the Army Corps of Engineers, our hearts are with the people of Maui and all the people who suffered through this terrible wildfire incident.”

USACE’s role includes providing design and site preparation, construction of temporary housing pads, and other essential services to enable FEMA to offer temporary housing for eligible residents affected by the wildfires.

This support aims to assist Kula and Lahaina residents as they work to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the disaster.

During the visit, Spellmon presented commander’s coins to USACE responders at the Emergency Field Office for their dedication and contributions to the recovery efforts following the Maui wildfires. USACE remains actively engaged in supporting FEMA, the state of Hawaii, and the county of Maui in the impacted areas of Kula and Lahaina.

Kenny Kwan (foreground) and Jon Runnels (background), quality assurance representatives deployed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Temporary Emergency Power Team, perform a quality assurance inspection of a generator at a water pump station on Maui, Aug 22, 2023. USACE PHOTO

In a separate development, Brig. Gen. Joseph C. “Clete” Goetz II, the newly appointed Commander and Division Engineer of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Pacific Ocean Division, wasted no time in familiarizing himself with the ongoing recovery missions. Within less than twenty-four hours of taking command, Goetz traveled to Maui on June 14 to personally review the progress of USACE’s efforts in the region.

“This is day one for me. I had to come out here because it was that important,” Goetz emphasized.

Accompanied by Lt. Col. Ryan Pevey and Col. Eric Swenson, Goetz’s first stop was the missions Emergency Field Office, where he received updates on the progress of the fire debris removal, temporary debris site, and temporary housing site missions.

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The group then travelled to the impacted zone where they saw first-hand the recovery efforts and progress.

To date, USACE teams and contractors have successfully cleared fire debris from 1,250 residential properties and 47 commercial properties in the region. The Corps continues its response and recovery missions in close coordination with local, state, and federal partners to ensure the timely and effective support for the impacted communities in Kula and Lahaina.