Oprah Winfrey receives 'big mahalo' from Hawaii's governor for aiding fire evacuations
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Hawaii's governor thanked Oprah Winfrey on Twitter late Thursday for granting county officials access to a private road on her ranch property to assist with evacuations after a brush fire swept across Maui hours earlier.
"A big mahalo to @Oprah for giving @mauicounty access to your private road for use to assist in the #Mauifire," Hawaii Gov. David Igo, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter.
Winfrey was apparently a step ahead of her Hawaiian neighbors Thursday. After several social media users took to Twitter pleading for the former talk-show host to allow them to get to safety, she clarified that she "immediately" granted fire officials access to her private road for evacuations "many hours" before the Twitter users asked her to do so.
After the blaze ignited and spread, fire officials ordered thousands of residents to evacuate the Kihei and Maalaea areas, Hawaii News Now reported. Maui officials also closed off highways so fire crews could battle the growing fire. As billows of smoke filled the Hawaiian sky, Twitter users made their appeals to Winfrey to gain access to her private road.
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“@Oprah Maui is on fire consider opening the ranch road so we can get upcountry,” Jack Moussally wrote.
“@Oprah Kihei only has one path out right now with this #mauifire. If you can help us out, please do!” Erin Hayden-Baldauf wrote.
A third person even claimed people would "burn to death" if Oprah didn't open her road to the public.
But the 65-year-old media mogul assured everyone late Thursday that access had been granted.
"This was many hours ago," she wrote. "Hoping for the safety of all."
Meanwhile, the Hawaii Department of Transportation announced Thursday that the Kuihelani Highway and Maui Veterans Highway to Kahului were reopened by Thursday evening. Flights flying into the Official Kahului Airport (OGG) were also rerouted, the agency said. County officials opened several shelters for displaced residents. Power outages were also expected on the island. The National Weather Service tweeted late Thursday that the fire was so large that its smoke was visible from space.
No fatalities or injuries were immediately reported.
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Winfrey reportedly owns 100 acres in the region of Hana and 1,000 acres in Upcountry on the island of Maui. The Maui property includes a 12-room ranch and a four-mile private road, Maui Time reported in 2011.
It was unclear if Oprah was on the island during the fire. She shared two photos on Instagram last week from a Weight Watchers event she said she hosted at her Hawaii ranch, prompting Twitter users to ask for her help Thursday.
Winfrey also reportedly owns homes in California, Colorado, Florida and New Jersey — as well as in Chicago, the city where her talk show was based for many years.
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