"Lahaina Heroes": Maui Contractor Praised for Wildfire Response (Videos)

Jordanne Waldschmidt Headshot
Updated Sep 1, 2023
Kimo Clark, Owner, Truth Excavation
Truth Excavation

The last time we wrote about Maui contractor Kimo Clark, he drew attention for his construction company’s unorthodox work schedule consisting of four 10-hour days per week.

But those days are over.

The native resident of Lahaina, Hawaii, and his crew at Truth Excavation have worked around the clock to battle the blaze and are now assisting with search and recovery efforts following the devastating wildfires that swept through Maui on August 8.

Kimo has been documenting fire and cleanup efforts on his Instagram page whenever he can get cellphone service. Using his fleet of construction equipment and water trucks, his crew cut fire breaks and aided in firefighting efforts.

“Isi Kaho is a true hero,” Kimo told his 52,000 followers of the Truth Excavation employee. “He worked 24 hours straight through the night, going into the places fire trucks wouldn’t go. ...

“People who were trying to run away, he saved by providing water cover. He saved people trapped in cars. He saved people’s houses.”

One area resident on the receiving end of Truth Excavation's efforts, Lindsay Mason, said, "If it weren’t for Isi and his water truck, our home, [my neighbor's] home, and most likely the whole north end of the Launiupoko neighborhood would have burned. This is one testimony of so many where Kimo, Isi, and the rest of his Truth Excavation crew saved parts of Lahaina town from total destruction. They are Lahaina heroes and absolute legends!"

Watch Kimo’s recounts of the fire in the videos below:

August 8

On August 8, Kimo and the Truth Excavation crew spent the entire day and into the night fighting the fire in the upper Lahainaluna bypass area. These efforts were successful in saving Kimo’s parents' home and many of their neighbor's homes.

August 9

Around 9 p.m. on August 9, Kimo returned home to Wahikuli Road in North Lahaina to retrieve personal items before reconnecting with his family in Napili, where they were staying with friends. Kimo woke up early the following day to find out his neighborhood had been destroyed.

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August 11

On August 11, while at the airport to get cell phone service, Kimo noticed another fire had started. He took immediate action, calling his crew in for support. They were able to contain the fire.

“There was equipment right next to the fire, so I just grabbed the dozer and started making fire breaks. I couldn’t call anyone for permission, so I just took it,” said Clark. “I’m just blown away by my crew that just steps up and responds. They are down for whatever and whenever. I haven’t even paid them for this week yet.”

August 13

Despite the devastation, Kimo's family is safe, and he did not lose a single piece of equipment in the fire.

"We lost our house, which seems pretty minor compared to what everyone else lost," he said.

August 21

Kimo and his employees have undergone search and rescue training and are working alongside state, county and FEMA officials to assist with clearing debris for trained search and rescue professionals.

“The fire department and the dogs go in, and we're taking stuff off so the dogs can sniff,” Kimo said. “We’re working with FEMA, and they’re great to work with. We’re working with them to facilitate a process, and it’s a slow process. It’s a heavy situation, but we’re here and want to be here.”


A Long Road Ahead

The fire has undoubtedly changed the course of Clark and other Hawaii contractors’ businesses for the foreseeable future, as the community is now left to grieve the loss of loved ones and rebuild the historic town they call home.

According to Forbes, the death toll has reached 114, with that number expected to increase as crews continue to search wildfire-affected areas. Approximately 1,000 people are still missing or unaccounted for, with 78% of the area searched.

Evidence suggests that the state’s main utility equipment sparked the multiple fires, spreading quickly as powerful winds from Hurricane Dora tore through the drought-stricken region, according to the Washington Post.

The destruction was made worse by failing infrastructure during the blaze. Above-ground power lines were torched, knocking out the power needed to operate water pumps, and water mains melted from the heat, the New York Times reported. According to the Pacific Disaster Center, more than 2,200 structures were damaged or destroyed in the Lahaina fire.

As of August 18, the Forbes report says the fires in Lahaina, Kula, and Olinda were at least 85% contained, while the Pulehu/Kihei fire remained 100% contained.

A Call for Help

Family friend Shannon Garrison started a GoFundMe page to help Kimo cover expenses for his business as he and his crew keep working to clean up Lahaina until state or federal disaster clean-up jobs become available.

Garrison says the company’s overhead is $40,000 per week with payroll, insurance, equipment, fuel and loans. Additionally, the Clark family lost their home, mother-in-law unit, and a tiny house that they rented out, displacing three families. The Truth Excavation office was also destroyed.

The Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency is supporting wildfire response and recovery efforts in Hawai‘i and Maui counties, including the extensive damage in Lāhainā. No information is available yet on how contractors can get cleanup work.

Information is regularly updated on Maui County’s website, including how to get relief, volunteer, and make donations: https://www.mauinuistrong.info/.