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Oprah Winfrey lauded for aiding Hawaii fire evacuations

Oprah Winfrey lauded for aiding Hawaii fire evacuations

An evacuation notice was sent to the cellphones of residents in the town of Maalaea and in parts of Kihei, a Maui County official said. At about 2:15 p.m., thick smoke was blowing across Maui Veterans Highway and vehicles were turning around at the Humane Society.

Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said South Maui is suffering from poor air quality due to the large amounts of smoke created by the fire.

The fire on Maui, sometimes called the Valley Isle, has scorched more than 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares) of former sugar cane fields and brush since erupting on Thursday, and by Friday was 20 percent contained, island officials said in a statement.

Smoke from the brush fire raging in central Maui, Hawaii, is seen in a video screengrab from HawaiiNewsNow, July 11, 2019.

Maui County officials said firefighters are maintaining their battle against the fire that was first reported Thursday morning in Central Maui.

Winds of up to 20 miles per hour helped the flames from the fire to spread, according to officials. At least two helicopters were conducting water drops.

The National Weather Service released footage of the smoke from a weather satellite.

Reuters reports that about 500 people had evacuated to three shelters.

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Shortly after news of the fire broke, people began tweeting Winfrey to see if she could share her gate code, which would allow residents to evacuate the area on the Hawaiian island quickly and safely.

Some flights to the island's main airport in Kahului were diverted because the fire was affecting access to the facility, the state Department of Transportation said on Twitter.

County of Maui activated its Emergency Operations Center to respond to the fire Thursday morning.

"A big mahalo to @Oprah for giving @mauicounty access to your private road for use to assist in the #Mauifire", tweeted Hawaii Gov. David Ige.

So. Maui is on fire.

The agency reported moving crates and kennels of animals to its evacuation site at Maui High School, Perry added. Operations returned to normal schedules around 7 p.m. Thursday.

No deaths, injuries or structure damage was immediately reported.