Hawaii Trip Insurance In The World Of Wild Fires

Extent Of Maui Disaster Expands Exponentially As Search/Rescue Begins

Ghastly, grim, and overwhelming details about the Lahaina fire on Maui are coming to light even just since we last wrote at 1 am this morning. The totality of the Maui disaster appears incomparably worse than previously revealed.

This is fast becoming what could be the largest natural disaster to ever strike the Hawaiian Islands. It is a lot to digest, and we find ourselves reeling from both the intensity of the news and the scope of the devastation.

Details just coming to light overnight here in Hawaii leave us emotionally exhausted. These include a plethora of new, shocking, and very concerning information not previously known.

“When you see the full extent of the destruction of Lahaina, it will shock you. It does appear like a bomb and fire went off.”

Governor Josh Green. 8/10/23.

“Our prayers are with the people of Hawaii, but not just our prayers: every asset that we have will be available to them.”

President Joe Biden. 8/10/23.

Death toll to soar; search and rescue starts with over 1,000 missing.

The death toll on Maui is now expected to rise, perhaps exponentially. The realization came last night that deaths reported thus far were only the most obvious. Search and rescue efforts are only now just beginning. Cadaver dogs are beginning to search in this first death discovery phase. Governor Green said last night that many, if not most, burned buildings have not yet been cleared. He also said about the number of casualties, “Honestly, we don’t know.”

Last night Governor Josh Green, himself an emergency room physician, warned further of what is to come. With residents expected to be able to return to see the results of the fire sometime later today, he warned that “they will see destruction like they’ve not ever seen in their lives.”

The two most critical emergency officials on Maui were both off-island.

It was reported last night that the Maui Fire Department chief and the Maui emergency management administrator were not there on Tuesday as Lahaina burned to the ground. Fire chief Bradford Ventura returned to Maui the day following the disaster. Herman Andaya, whose agency was responsible for evacuation orders, was also reported to be away from Maui and returned subsequently. We aren’t sure how the two most important people can be allowed to be gone simultaneously, but there you have it.

Further, on Thursday, county officials couldn’t or wouldn’t say when or if the evacuation order for Lahaina was issued or how those plans had unfolded two nights earlier when fire swiftly consumed the town, leaving at least 67 people confirmed dead.

Role of Hawaiian Electric power lines in fire and recovery.

The governor pointed out that some 11k people still have no power because twenty-nine power poles (many still active) are on the ground. He said that even more people could be displaced due to electrical issues forthcoming. He and Maui’s mayor Bissen are expected to have significant further announcements today.

Mayor Bissen added that the power poles had not been deactivated during the crisis, which leads to questions about their role in the fire. The second-worst wildfire in California history was sparked by power lines coming in contact with trees. At this time, we don’t know what procedure the utility company may have had in place in this regard, but power should have been cut off, which -per the mayor -did not occur.

Curfew and FEMA coming to Maui.

Governor Green warned yesterday of a likely upcoming curfew, which others on Maui have also confirmed, details of which have not yet been released. In addition, he said that those who have remained in the area will finally be allowed to leave.

FEMA will be on the scene at Lahaina with Hawaii’s governor and other officials Saturday.

World’s most extensive emergency alert system was not activated.

Hawaii has said its public warning system for all emergencies consists of 400 integrated sirens linked across the entire state. Yesterday, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesperson reported that their records indicate that those sirens were never activated on Maui. Instead, as was confirmed by those there to us directly, the only emergency alerts received were via cell phone alerts through whichever towers were still broadcasting, and what was available on television and radio.

Residents reported no warnings issued and worse.

We reported yesterday that we talked with our friends on Maui who were at home in Lahaina when the fire erupted. They told us, as others have confirmed, that not only were they not told to evacuate, but that police had advised them that they would be safe and did not need to leave.

Subsequently, the winds accelerated to more than 80 miles per hour, and fire rained down on them directly. Our friends could barely escape with their lives as their house was aflame. They took nothing with them. Editor Rob’s cousin in Lahaina also fled, losing her home, work, and belongings.

Lack of firefighters and equipment.

The Hawaii Firefighters Association said yesterday that fire suppression didn’t happen due to a lack of personnel. There were only 65 firefighters across the three islands in Maui County, and the firefighter association indicated that crews could not address fires until they approached populated areas. Association president Bob Lee said, “You’re basically dealing with trying to fight a blowtorch.” Lee further said, “You’ve got to be careful—you don’t want to get caught downwind from that because you’re going to get run over in a wind-driven fire of that magnitude.”

Maui has known of this catastrophic potential for a decade.

Studies from as far back as 2014 pointed to the possibility of such an extensive fire without measures to prevent it. While the Lahaina area has remained one of extreme risk, drought conditions have worsened since then as population density has simultaneously increased. The perfect storm was created with the introduction of the hurricane-driven winds that struck earlier in the week.

Elimination of agricultural crops and fire proclivity.

The West Maui landscape was previously dominated by agriculture, including sugar and pineapple. With those gone, there is little replacement. Most of the former land used for crops has become dry guinea grass, which is the perfect fuel for wildfires after being entirely dried out by the blazing Lahaina sun and fierce dry winds.

The burden on the State of Hawaii is to change or be further decimated.

Hawaii may be able to make changes that could reverse these tendencies towards extreme wildfires. But given that it has known about this situation for a decade and has done virtually nothing about it, will that even happen? It isn’t just Maui; the entire island chain could be at risk of a similar disaster. Alternatives to complacency and destruction may include the maintenance of appropriate firebreaks, the rebuilding of native forests, and allowing grazing of grasses to reduce the “fuel load” currently present.

FEMA arrives on Maui to face the unknown.

Fema is sending search and rescue teams to account for all those still missing. Regarding other immediate needs, they are also providing communications equipment to resolve mass outages. They are setting up a distribution center on Maui which will provide food, water, and cots for those needing shelter. FEMA will remain on the scene for an undefined timeframe to support the ongoing recovery needs.

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48 thoughts on “Extent Of Maui Disaster Expands Exponentially As Search/Rescue Begins”

  1. I’m saddened by the devastation that has happened on Maui. A couple of years ago, we visited my sister in law, who lives near Makawao, she took us on a PWF cruise to see humpback whales. Afterwards, we ate at the restaurant across from the banyan tree. Then we walked along on the shops and we stopped at one jewelry store where I bought a necklace for my daughter for her 2022 high school grad gift.

    I currently work for the San Francisco water department and there are two special buildings dedicated to pumping seawater to provide emergency water for firefighting. There is also a high pressure water system from some of the reservoirs to provide the fire department with their regular supply of water. Maybe the hawaii head of emergency services can contact the SFPUC to see how our water system is set up to help them design a system to prevent future major fire issues. I hope that what we have in San Francisco can help Hawaii implement something similar to protect the islands. I’m also hoping to retire on Oahu in a couple of years and would hate to see any major fires happen again.

    My prayers and thoughts for all Hawaiians!

  2. Our hearts are broken as we were just in West Maui (Kahana) for our 35th visit to Paradise. We live in Oregon and are way too familiar with wild fires they are unforgiving.
    We received a notification on our phones last night with a level 3 evacuating for the Lookout fire up the McKenzie River. It was shocking but a chance for people and pets to get away …houses can be replaced.
    I can only hope that from the ashes the resilient Aloha spirit is able to heal from this deviation. We are sending not just thoughts and prays but are contributing to funds for both humans and Maui humane society. I wish all of you peace and a safe recovery in this sad time. Aloha Nui

  3. For over 10 years our Governors Mayors and officials knew this tragedy would happen and did nothing about it.
    Now we pay the price.

  4. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Maui.
    I am very surprised that with the Fire Department chief and emergency manager not present, that another person was not in charge. That is not the way the Incident Command System (ICS) is supposed to work.

  5. Whoever had the responsibility to Alert everyone by every method possible, including the siren system that most likely would have alerted more people than cell phones, tv, and radio, which all went down, should be held accountable. Those sirens can be heard for miles. How sad, your government failed you and also ignored potential wild fire risk. Shame on them. lives could possibly have been saved. My condolences to those who lost family, friends and loved ones, and to the people who lost homes and businesses.

    1. I think Hawaii’s civil alert system has been aimed at the sea (Tsunami) and a couple of volcanoes for so long, it just didn’t occur to them for a fire. Until it was too late. Hard way to learn a necessary lesson.

    2. Just watched todays press conference where the governor barely mentioned the death toll is now 89. I couldn’t believe my ears when he congratulated the police and fire for the good job they have been doing.
      I hate to imagine how many people would die before it would be a bad job.
      Watch for yourself on YouTube, the bulk of the time was spent talking about money, as if that will make any difference to the deceased.
      Questions about lack of warnings were dismissed with anger or refused an answer. No surprise the Emergency Management representative was too busy to attend. They all seemed guilty and defensive, trying to blame climate change for lack of planning.

    3. Can someone please post a verified donation/support link that guarantees the funds will go to the needs of the people on Maui? Not just the foundation in general. The one on CNN for example is a farce and will not guarantee even a portion of the donations go directly where you want. Pffff,

  6. Aloha BOH Bro’s

    As stated in previous post, I’m a survivor of wildfire that leveled Paradise California in 2018.

    The winds that fueled our fire were no different then the ones that fueled Lahaina’s fire.

    You cannot relate to a fire like this until you’ve experienced one for yourself. One minute the fire is 2 or 3 miles away 5 minutes later everything is burning around you, I mean everything.

    The asphalt road was on fire. Driving down the road vehicle tires were on fire. Everything was melting inside our truck.

    I’ve visited Lahaina several times with its narrow streets and old wood framed buildings with a fire moving that fast even if warning alert was sent out I don’t know how much good it would have done.

    We knew for years that our fire was coming many of us are here today, because we didn’t wait for an evacuation order it would have been to late.

    You can play the blame game, but even if everything work right with the alert system with a fire that moves 60, 70 miles per hour I don’t know how much good it would have done.

    Maui residents are going to……almost 5 years later I still have moments when I see a friend survivor and we both break down.

    5 years…..

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience. I am on the mainland but worried about family and friends. I have been crying and wanted answers. You have brought some understanding of this horrendous situation. My family is safe. God bless you.

    2. Oh Richard, thank you for bringing balance and Aloha to a tragic situation. I am so sorry for what you’ve experienced – so grateful for your willingness to engage.

      I fly to Hawaii weekly from Arizona. I offer live, hugs, compassion and grace to all.❤️

    3. Well said, Richard. As I mentioned in an earlier post here, money simply “thrown” at this situation as an afterthought is useless. Bury the power, telephone, and cable wherever reconstruction is needed and figure out safe rooms so people can “shelter in place” for brief periods during hurricanes, tsunamis, and, God forbid, another fire like this. We have seen that evacuation with this street system is not viable.

  7. What a devastating loss. Good summary of the multiple reasons this tragedy was able to happen. It is so reminiscent of the Camp fire and loss of the town of Paradise where both my mom and grandparents lost their homes. I was really surprised by how soon they were letting people back into Lahaina with it being an active recovery scene. It was a month before people were let back into Paradise. My heart goes out to the people of Maui as it will be a very long and difficult road to recovery. The Red Cross and Hawaii Community Foundation are great ways to donate to the fire victims. For the victims, the Small Business Administration provides low % loans for rebuilding (I think my mom’s is 2.5%) and is for residents and businesses. 💕 Maui Forever Strong

  8. In December 2021 Boulder County in Colorado experienced a wildfire. 100+ mile an hour winds, 1084 buildings destroyed, 6026 acres burned 2 people died and 6 injured and took two days to put out. Cause was determined as a detached power line and residential embers that the wind uncovered from a burn pit on a farm. My heart goes out to all the have lost their homes, business, and life. Going to miss the great downtown area.

  9. This is a horrible tragedy! It is very devastating, especially to the people and island of Maui. As an Emergency Manager, my first thought as this evolved was, was there a disaster plan? Who was responsible to initiate it? You always have a backup to the backup. The plan would have have clearly delineated who was doing what? Who was the Incident Commander as defined by FEMA? The risk seems pretty clear, and with a yearly risk assessment fire should have been rated pretty high. As for both being off island, there should have been a hand off to someone else. Maybe there was, I am sure that will come during the review. As for staffing, unfortunately it happens all too frequently that budgets are cut for Emergency personnel. As we remind our financial and politicians all the time in Emergency Management, there is a real risk of horrible consequences. And we see decisions made to not be adequately prepared. The bottom line, it appears as this disaster exploded, the people of Lahaina appeared to be fending for themselves. That is heartbreaking!!! Lots of lessons will be taken from this in exchange for destruction and human lives!! Paradise has been lost.


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