Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Members of the Western Montana Incident Management Team recently returned from Hawaii where they spent November, December, and January helping out with recovery efforts after the disastrous 2023 wildfire in Lahaina.

KGVO News spoke with Missoula County Deputy Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Nick Holloway about the mission to help out in Hawaii.

The Missoula Team spent Three Months Assisting the Lahaina Fire Response

“The fire occurred back on August 8th, but they're still recovering from it,” began Holloway. “Right now the big effort is removing debris, and so that came in two phases, starting with removing toxic waste and now they're getting debris removed after the toxic waste is gone so that they can start thinking about rebuilding. They're doing that in two phases. They are going to dig down six inches and then they're going to see if there's any more toxicity under there, and if there's not, they'll go on to the next property and do the same thing.”

In addition to helping out with the wildfire mitigation, Holloway said his team also assisted in responding to other incidents in Hawaii.

The Missoula Team Helped out with Other Emergencies in Hawaii

“We staffed the Emergency Operations Center overnight twice due to flash flooding events,” he said. “We helped people trapped on a bridge and people trapped in cars. We also had a potential tornado warning on the island of Molokai, which is within the jurisdiction of Maui. That didn't turn out to cause any damage but it's a rare event in Hawaii. So we were staffing the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) to make sure that if that was to cause some damage, we will be there to respond.”

Holloway said one of the ways his staff provided lasting assistance to their colleagues in Hawaii was to help them train their emergency management teams.

Read More: Missoula Team Returns After Helping With Hurricane Ian in Florida

The Missoula Team Helped to Train Emergency Crews in Hawaii

“We got that process started for them,” he said. “We laid out training paths so that their folks could get trained up in all the positions that occupy our incident management team. We gave them some ideas on how to recruit folks from within their own organizations so that they can have a faster response for (an incident) like this next time. It's just a continuous training and recruitment effort to create and develop and maintain an incident management team, and we gave them some strategic guidelines on just how to do that.”

In 2022, a similar team from Missoula traveled to Florida to assist in mitigating the damage of Hurricane Ian.

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