Cane smoke chokes Kihei school and prompts investigation

Although at least two individuals called the Department of Health on May 26th asking that a no-burn day be called because an inversion layer was forecasted for May 27th, HC&S went ahead and burned anyway.  At least one student was hospitalized and several students were returned home due to thick smoke at Kamali’i Elementary School.

HC&S left a voice message for one parent saying that there was no smoke in Kihei – only “odor”.  After the recording was made public this photo of the May 27th smoke in Kihei was captioned and made its rounds on Facebook:


From Hawaii News Now:

KIHEI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) –

The Department of Health Clean Air Branch is working to determine if HC&S, Hawaiian Commercial and Sugar Company, followed permit guidelines when it burned cane Wednesday on Maui.

Cell phone video and pictures show thick smoke filling Kihei neighborhoods and school children covering their mouths with their shirts. Resident Terez Amato Lindsey shared a picture of her teenager in the hospital getting a breathing treatment.

Ground level smoke is prohibited as part of the permit guidelines.

“It’s a serious threat,” Physicist Joe Ritter says the smoke from these burns are toxic, “This is a serious health risk not just the children but to the entire community.”

Dr. Ritter says the chemicals in sugar cane have been labeled carcinogens. He says the conditions Wednesday, a lack of trade winds, caused the smoke to hover above Kihei and the burn should have been called off.

“I started to feel a little bit dizzy and my stomach started to turn,” says Kihei resident Katie Caccamo, “I felt like I was going to vomit.”

Caccamo thought her neighbors home was on fire until she walked outside.”

Read the rest of the article at Hawaii News Now.


  • DannoBoy

    In exchange for campaign contributions, Roz Baker opposed doing anything about the burning of sugar cane fields right next to schools and residential areas, even though the smoke includes burnt plastic irrigation tubing and numerous carcinogens.

  • Kai

    This is shameful. I have a son at Kamalii and can attest to the fact that this burn (along with MANY, MANY others) does directly impact conditions at Kihei schools. Are we selling out our kids for the financial benefit of HC&S?