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USACE begins Phase 2 commercial debris removal operations in Lahaina

The first truckload of fire debris from a commercial property was hauled to the Temporary Debris Storage Site in West Maui, March 22, 2024. This was the first commercial property debris removal operation for commercial property impacted by the Aug. 8, 2023, wildfires.

Posted on April 1, 2024

A U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contractor began hauling debris from commercial properties impacted by the Aug. 8, 2023, wildfires in the town of Lahaina, Hawai’i, March 22. This begins Phase 2 of the debris removal process that includes removal of remaining structural ash and debris, as well as soil testing.

USACE is responsible for overseeing the debris removal mission under a Federal Emergency Management Agency mission assignment, part of a coordinated effort with the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the County of Maui and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“Today was a great Day,” said Col. Eric Swenson, Recovery Field Office commander. “Our contractor nearly finished the first property and looks good for completion tomorrow.”

Contractors will remove debris from 140 public and commercial properties. About 33 of these commercial properties were designated as “deferred properties” due to conditions on property. Initial work began on deferred commercial properties March 7, as part of USACE-dubbed, “Make-Safer” operations.

“Essentially, make safer means we go through and reduce overhead obstacles, overhead hazards and or remove large piles of debris and metal that prevented Phase 1 crews from accessing a site,” said Swenson. “As we begin the second phase of the debris removal process USACE will ensure the Phase 1 work is completed before moving into Phase 2 for deferred properties.”

During phase 2, crews water down properties while work is being performed to prevent spreading contaminants. According to Ben Ashlock, USACE quality assurance representative, debris is then removed from the rear to the front of the property, separating metal, that will be recycled, and the remaining ash is taken to the Temporary Debris Storage Site in West Maui.

“The final step is to scrape the top 6 inches of soil and haul it to the Temporary Debris Storage Site,” said Ashlock, who is from the Walla Walla District in State of Washington.

Samples from the scraped soil sill be sent for testing to ensure the site is clean, safe for rebuilding, and free of potentially leached toxins.

“I encourage any commercial property owner interested in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Government-sponsored Debris Removal Program to contact us for more information,” said Swenson. “If you are on the fence or just need more information, give us a call we will give you straight answers so you can make informed decisions.”

For more information on the USACE debris removal program and Rights of Entry, call 877-214-9117 or visit


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