Satellite images capture devastation in Lahaina from wildfires
Satellite images captured the devastation on Maui Wednesday after a wildfire tore through Lahaina, a popular vacation destination on the island’s west coast that was once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
In one image from the company Maxar Technologies, the historic area of Banyan Court — home to the island’s oldest living banyan tree, at 150 years old — appears to have mostly been reduced to ash.
Other images showed similar devastation in and around Lahaina Square, a shopping area, and a neighborhood on the southern end of the town.
Visitors asked to leave Maui as soon as possible due to crisis
Visitors “with vehicles or any means of transportation” are being asked to leave the fire-ravaged Lahaina area and Maui as soon as possible, county officials said today.
The county made the request because officials have limited resources in what it described as a crisis.
Buses will be taking people from Sheraton Maui Resort in Kaʻanapali to Kahului Airport, the county said.
Widespread damage has been seen in Lahaina in western Maui from one of three wildfires. At least six people are dead, and western Maui does not have power or cell service.
Firefighters battling spot fires around Lahaina, no new evacuations
More than 100 Maui firefighters were battling three wildfires today, and helicopters have been making water drops and conducting searches, Maui County said.
No new evacuations were ordered in Maui, which has faced severe wind-fueled wildfires, but the damage in the western Maui town of Lahaina was called widespread.
There are three fires on Maui — the Lahaina, Pūlehu and Upcountry fires. The National Guard and other military units are assisting with helicopters doing water drops, officials said.
Firefighters in Lahaina were putting out spot fires around the community of around 12,700, the county said in a statement.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell also tweeted that she has spoken with the state’s lieutenant governor, and that the agency has authorized federal assistance to help firefighting efforts.
‘Everyone I know in Lahaina, their homes have been burned down’
Residents who have fled their homes in advance of devastating wildfires have shared their heartbreak and uncertainty with NBC affiliate KHNL of Honolulu.
“Everyone I know in Lahaina, their homes have been burned down,” Tiare Lawrence, of the community on the western edge of Maui, told the station. She said she was trying to make sure everyone in her family is safe.
Holly Zackious, of Kula, found her home was intact but told the station that others in the neighborhood were burned to the ground.
“It’s awful the amount of damage that this fire wreaked havoc,” she said. “We’re praying for Lahaina.”
Gabe Johnson, Maui County council member for the island of Lāna’i, told KHNL that those who have not been affected are coming to help others.
“We rebuild. You know, Lahaina strong,” Johnson told the station. “It’s not just an expression.”
At least 271 structures damaged or destroyed in Maui fires
At least 271 structures have been damaged, destroyed or otherwise impacted in the western Maui town of Lahaina after a devastating wildfire, Maui County officials said.
The state’s lieutenant governor said earlier today that it could be weeks or months before the full damage of the fires on Maui is known.
Fires continue to burn both on Maui and the island of Hawaii and high-speed and erratic winds continue to make it difficult to fly aircraft to get a better sense of the totality of the damage, a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency official said.
“Widespread damage to the West Maui town, the harbor and surrounding areas are being documented,” the county said in a statement.
Wildfire decimates Lahaina, once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom
A historic seaside town that once was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii has been largely reduced to ash as wildfires continued to rip through the state Wednesday.
Hawaiians say Lahaina’s disaster leaves them mourning the loss of a place dense with Native Hawaiian history and culture — and they’re bracing for what the tragedy will mean for their communities in the long term.
“People are worried about their loved ones, their homes, their businesses, their jobs,” said David Aiona Chang, who is Native Hawaiian and a professor of history at the University of Minnesota. “So many of the disasters that hit Hawaii hit Native Hawaiians the hardest. It’s something that we are going to be dealing with for a long time.”
Satellite imagery shows Maui fires
Aerial video shows devastation in Maui
Helicopter video from Air Maui Helicopter Tours in Lahaina shows the devastation in the community of around 12,700 on the western coast of Maui, after wildfires.
Two patients in Maui fires in critical condition, hospital says
Two of five people being cared for at Maui Memorial Medical Center following wildfires on the island were in critical condition, Maui Health said today.
The hospital is treating five people in all, and seven others have been sent to Oahu for specialty services, some of whom suffered fire-related injuries, Maui Health, a nonprofit hospital organization, said.
Two new brushfires on Hawaii’s Big Island
Two new brushfires started today on the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, where fires have also been burning, officials said.
Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth has said the focus should be on Maui, where devastating wildfires have occurred, causing at least six deaths.
The new fires were in the Kaʻū region, and one of those was under control, the Hawaii Fire Department said.
The Akoni Pule Highway brushfire is about 60% contained but is threatening structures, according to the Fire Department, and there are fires in the Mauna Kea Beach area. People at the Mauna Kea Resort have been told to shelter in place.
Roth in a video briefing earlier today thanked assistance from state agencies and the National Guard in dealing with brushfires on the island.
Full damage may not be known for weeks or months
It’s expected to take weeks before officials know the full scale of the damage to Maui in the wake of wildfires, Hawaii’s lieutenant governor said today.
“This is not going to be a short journey. It’s going to take weeks and maybe months to assess the full damage,” Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, who is acting governor until the governor returns early from a trip, said.
She said the state will provide whatever assistance possible, and federal aid was also sent or being sent to help in the wildfires and the aftermath.
“We will rebuild,” Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said at a news briefing.
Two UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters with water buckets, as well as three CH-47 Chinook with 2,000 gallon water buckets, have been or were being sent to Maui today to help, said Maj. Gen. Kenneth S. Hara, adjutant general for the state.
Also sent with one of the Chinooks is an “enhanced emergency response force package,” which involves a specialized team capable of confined space search and rescue, he said.
Maui has seen winds of over 50 mph
High winds from passing Hurricane Dora may have helped fuel wildfires in Maui, and today the National Weather Service said gusts on the island have reached as high as 67 mph.
In the 48 hour period between 10 a.m. Honolulu time Monday and Wednesday morning, the highest recorded gusts were between 45 and 67 mph, according to the weather service.
Forecasters had warned of fire risk due to high winds starting Monday, and a “red flag” warning about fires had also been issued.
Biden orders ‘all available federal assets’ to help
President Joe Biden and the first lady today expressed their condolences to the people of Maui, and Biden pledged assistance from federal assets.
“Jill and I send our deepest condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones in the wildfires in Maui, and our prayers are with those who have seen their homes, businesses, and communities destroyed,” Biden said in a statement. “We are grateful to the brave firefighters and first responders who continue to run toward danger, putting themselves in harm’s way to save lives.”
Biden said he has “ordered all available Federal assets on the Islands to help with response.” The Hawaii National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard and the Navy’s Third Fleet is assisting, he said.
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said that the state will be submitting a request for a presidential disaster declaration once officials know the scope of the devastation. Such declarations allow increased federal aid.
Urgent care clinics in Lahaina can’t treat patients, say their structures are either damaged or destroyed
Cliff Alakai, an administrator at Maui Medical Group, said he learned on Facebook that the group’s Lahaina urgent care facility was damaged.
“One of our IT people found a picture and put a circle around our clinic. It’s a two-story clinic. It looks like the second floor is heavily damaged,” Alakai said.
Alakai said Maui Medical Group operates four additional outpatient clinics outside Lahaina that are open to patients, but many Lahaina residents are hesitant to leave the area because road closures would prevent them from returning home, he said. Employees who live in Lahaina have called out of work, but so far appear to be safe, he added.
“Our employees who live out there are calling to say, ‘Yeah, we’re all right. Our house burned down, but we’re fine. We got out in time,’” Alakai said.
Justin Prouty, owner of Minit Medical Urgent Care, said he assumes his Lahaina facility is no longer standing.
“All reports coming out of Lahaina are super sketchy right now. There’s just no news there, no cell service so nobody can get any information. It sounds like a couple of our employees have lost their homes,” Prouty said. “I’ve had reports that places around our clinic are burned to the ground, so my guess is our clinic is too.”
Avoid nonessential travel to Maui, officials urge
With wildfires raging, Hawaii officials urged both residents and tourists to avoid all nonessential travel to Maui.
There were at least 2,000 people at the airport overnight either attempting to leave or waiting for new flights to come in, according to Hawaii Department of Transportation Director Ed Sniffen.
“We made sure that we process them through this morning. We were working with our airline partners on all of that,” Sniffen said. “There’s another 4,000 visitors that we’re expecting who want to leave the island from the west side.”
Sniffen also noted that traffic on the highways will be congested as people are evacuated and certain areas of the island remain inaccessible.
Acting Gov. Luke also discouraged tourism to Maui as authorities struggle to contain the wildfires.
“This is not a safe place to be in certain parts of Maui,” Luke said. “We have shelters that are overrun. We have resources that are being taxed.”
Helicopters able to take off for water drops as winds reduce
The Kula Fire has not been contained on Maui, but officials are hopeful that the situation will improve now that firefighters can deploy water overhead.
“I think a big thing that was hampering us yesterday is because of the high winds, we were not able to get helicopters in the air,” Mayor Richard T. Bissen Jr. said. “It was not safe for them to do water drops. Apparently as of this morning that situation has improved.”
Almost 100 firefighters have been working in shifts, including 11 who work for the state airport firefighting and rescue teams. Maui first responders were also offered assets from other local and federal partners.
The military has provided Black Hawk helicopters and a Chinook helicopter in addition to aircraft from the Hawaii National Guard, according to Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, speaking on behalf of the Department of Defense.
‘Focus right now is to save lives and preserve lives’
Maui officials say that it’s “impossible” at this point to quantify the structural damage from the deadly fires.
“Our main focus right now is to save lives and preserve lives,” Mayor Richard T. Bissen Jr. said.
FEMA will assist with property assessments, Luke said.
6 deaths confirmed in Maui, mayor says
At least six people have died in the wildfires, and search-and-rescue efforts continue, Mayor Richard T. Bissen Jr. said.
Bissen said he’s unsure of how that number might change as authorities continue to battle the flames.
“There were a lot of people putting things out on social media; we have not had a chance to yet to confirm any of that,” he said. “We are still in that phase of gathering information.”
More than 2,100 people have been housed in shelters.
Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said no fatalities had been confirmed in his county.
Burn patients flown to Honolulu
Several burn patients from Maui were being treated at Straub Medical Center, the hospital said in a statement. The facility has the only specialized burn unit in Hawaii.
The Honolulu Emergency Services Department transported one woman in her 60s from Maui to the burn center, agency spokesperson Shayne Enright said. The woman was in critical condition.
The department has also received reports of multiple patients being flown from Maui to Honolulu, she said.
Maui issues water conservation advisory
Maui’s water department is asking consumers across the island to conserve water to reduce demand and extend existing supplies.
“The Department of Water Supply urges all residents and visitors to please be mindful of their water use and especially reduce outdoor water use,” it said in a statement. “The Water Department is working diligently to ensure our resources are used as efficiently as possible and we need the community to do their part.”
Customers are asked to not wash cars, sidewalks or driveways, or irrigate lawns until further notice.
Hawaii governor says he expects ‘some loss of life’ in wildfire catastrophe
Green said Wednesday he anticipates there will be casualties as a result of the wind-fueled wildfires scorching the islands.
“Heroic efforts by first responders have prevented many casualties from occurring, but some loss of life is expected,” he said in a statement.
Green called the severe weather a “terrible disaster,” noting the wildfires have “spread widely” because of Dora’s winds and the region already had underlying drought conditions.
“Much of Lāhainā on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced,” he said.
Green said he anticipates submitting a request for a presidential disaster declaration in the next 36 to 48 hours once the damage extent is assessed.
He had been on personal travel until Aug. 15 but will return to the islands Wednesday night to respond to the crisis.
Hawaii officials to hold news conference on wildfire
Hawaii state officials will host a briefing on the wildfires and the impact of Dora at 10 a.m. local time (4 p.m. ET) Wednesday.
Luke, who is serving as acting governor because Green is traveling, will speak, along with the Hawaii County and Maui County mayors.
Emergency proclamation issued for Maui air travel
Luke issued an emergency proclamation Wednesday to extend the state of emergency to all counties and to discourage “non-essential air travel to Maui.”
The proclamation cited ongoing wildfires in Hawaii, fanned by Dora’s winds.
“This is an unprecedented disaster as an indirect result of Hurricane Dora passing just south of our islands,” Luke said. “It is truly devastating and my heart goes out to the residents of Maui and all those impacted.”
The proclamation discouraging travel will allow the state to “prioritize our scarce resources for Maui residents who desperately need assistance,” she said.
Under the proclamation, visitors to West Maui are encouraged to depart the island as soon and as safely as possible.
Wednesday’s announcement follows Tuesday’s initial emergency proclamation authorizing the activation of the National Guard and authorizing state general revenue funds to be used for relief.
It has already been a devastating year for extreme weather
It may be days or weeks before the full extent of damage from the wildfires in Hawaii is known, but the blazes add to what has already been a devastating year of weather and climate disasters.
A report released Tuesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration found that there were more billion-dollar disasters in the first seven months of 2023 than in any year since 1980, when the agency began tracking these events.
Scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information said there have been 15 extreme weather events so far this year that each caused at least $1 billion in damage. These included severe storms, tornado outbreaks, hail, one flooding event and one winter storm.
NOAA said these climate and weather disasters caused 113 direct and indirect fatalities and resulted in more than $39.7 billion in damage from January through July.
Hawaiian Airlines offers refunds because of wildfires
Hawaiian Airlines tweeted early Wednesday that it will allow passengers to get refunds or change their travel dates because of ongoing wildfires.
The airline cited the emergency order in Maui County and the fact that “non-essential travel is being strongly discouraged.”
“We have a travel waiver in place and will allow you to receive a refund or change travel to a future date without penalty,” the airline said.
Kihei in Maui is ‘clear’ and residents can return, officials say
Kihei, a census-designated area, is “clear” and residents can return home, Maui County said in an update at 6 a.m. local time (12 p.m. ET).
Officials also said residents on Ohukai Road can return home, adding the fire in that area is “not a threat.”
However, Lahaina officers were evacuating residents in Launiupoko Estates and Punakea Loop.
2,000 sheltering at Kahului Airport
Travel in and out of Hawaii has been disrupted because of wildfires burning on several islands, prompting 2,000 travelers from canceled flights and arrivals to shelter at Kahului Airport in Maui County, the county said just before 5 a.m. local time Wednesday.
So far Wednesday, there have been 27 delays at the airport and two cancellations, following 45 delays and six cancellations Tuesday, according to FlightAware.com.
Almost 100 firefighters have been on duty, including 11 from state airport rescue personnel, the county said.
Maui County plagued by power outages
More than 14,000 power outages have been reported across Maui County, according to poweroutage.us, a site that collects and monitors live data from utilities across the United States.
Hawaiian Electric, the largest supplier of electricity in the state, said Tuesday that crews are working on extensive repairs to downed power lines in West Maui and Upcountry, and warned customers to be prepared for extended outages.
“With the sustained high wind weather, we are seeing additional impacts to our electrical infrastructure at the same time the crews are making repairs so we are asking customers to please prepare for possible extended outages into the night,” spokesperson Shayna Decker said in a statement Tuesday.
Fires in Hawaii unlike other U.S. wildfires
Fires in Hawaii are unlike many of those burning in the U.S. West. They tend to break out in large grasslands on the dry sides of the islands and are generally much smaller than mainland fires.
Fires were rare in Hawaii and on other tropical islands before humans arrived, and native ecosystems evolved without them. This means great environmental damage can occur when fires erupt. For example, fires remove vegetation. When a fire is followed by heavy rainfall, the rain can carry loose soil into the ocean, where it can smother coral reefs.
A major fire in the Big Island in 2021 burned homes and forced thousands to evacuate.
The island of Oahu, where Honolulu is located, also was dealing with power outages, downed power lines and traffic problems, said Adam Weintraub, communication director for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.
Hawaii under red flag warning
All the Hawaiian islands are under a red flag warning through 6 p.m. local time Wednesday.
A red flag warning is an alert issued by the weather service when a combination of very low humidity, warm temperatures and strong winds are expected to combine to cause fires to spread rapidly. The warning serves as a signal to officials and fire managers to be on the lookout for potential wildfires in the area.
The warning is for leeward areas, meaning land that faces away from the wind usually sheltered by hills and mountains, due to strong winds and low humidity, the agency in Honolulu said in a morning advisory.
“Very dry fuels combined with strong and gusty easterly winds and low humidities will produce critical fire weather conditions through the afternoon hours,” the advisory said.
East winds of 20 to 35 mph with gusts from 40 to 50 mph are forecast, along with humidity levels at 40-45% through the afternoon.
“Any fires that develops will likely spread rapidly. Outdoor burning is not recommended,” the agency warned.
Schools closed in Maui on Wednesday
Schools were shuttered Wednesday due to spreading brush fires and evacuations in Maui.
Closures in West Maui: Princess Nahi‘ena‘ena Elementary, King Kamehameha III Elementary, Lahaina Intermediate, Lahainaluna High.
Closures in South Maui: Kihei Elementary, Lokelani Intermediate, Kamali‘i Elementary and Kūlanihāko‘i High.
In Upcountry Maui, King Kekaulike High was closed and in Central Maui, Maui High was being used as an evacuation shelter.
Coast Guard rescues 12 Hawaii residents who fled into water
Twelve people were rescued overnight Tuesday by the Coast Guard after entering the ocean to escape blazes burning in West Maui, a Coast Guard spokesperson said.
All were in stable condition when recovered.
“The Coast Guard has been responding to impacted areas where residents are entering the ocean due to smoke and fire conditions,” Maui County said in a public notice. “Individuals were transported by the Coast Guard to safe areas.”
The U.S. Coast Guard tweeted that a dozen people were rescued near Lahaina by a 45-foot response boat from the Coast Guard’s Maui Station.
“The USCG continues the joint response with federal and state partners while the USCG Cutter Kimball is en route to Maui to enhance efforts,” it said.
Wildfires continue to burn across Big Island and Maui on Wednesday.
Winds strengthened by hurricane helped fuel devastating fires
Strong winds driven by Dora, which has been churning over the central Pacific Ocean and moving west, helped whip up wildfires that spread quickly in Hawaii.
The weather service Tuesday warned that 45 mph winds and gusts up to 60 mph could create “high fire danger with rapid spread.”
The winds strengthened by the hurricane exacerbated multiple fires in Maui and hampered efforts to put the blazes out, the Associated Press reported. Helicopter crews were unable to dump water on the fires to help contain the spread, and downed trees and power lines blocked some road access.
Dora was passing more than 500 miles south of Hawaii, and was not expected to make landfall on the island chain. The Category 4 storm is not thought to be directly responsible for the wildfires, but rather added to dry and windy conditions that heighten the risk of such blazes.
Hundreds evacuated, homes destroyed
In the Kula area of Maui, 80 people were evacuated from 40 homes, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen said Tuesday.
He said at least two homes were destroyed in a fire that engulfed about 1,100 acres.
He noted that fierce winds were the biggest challenge in confronting the blazes, as the wind conditions are unsafe for helicopters to do water drops.
Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said that about 400 homes in four communities in the northern part of the island were evacuated Tuesday. He said one roof had caught fire.
Where the blazes are
Two brush fires were burning Tuesday in the Big Island in North and South Kohala, Hawai’i County officials said.
“A mandatory evacuation was called for in the Kohala Ranch area, and 2 residents have taken shelter at Hisaoka Gymnasium,” the county said in a public notice Tuesday.
Evacuation shelters were opened at Hisaoka Gym in Kapaʻau and the Waimea Community Center in Waimea, officials said.
Wildfires are also burning in Maui, with the biggest blaze believed to be in Lahaina.
An emergency proclamation was issued Tuesday by Lt. Gov Sylvia Luke, activating the Hawaii National Guard.
Evacuations in Big Island and Maui
Evacuations are underway in Big Island and Maui amid wildfires that are raging across the area, fueled by winds associated with Dora.
No fatalities reported in wildfire
Officials were not aware of any deaths and knew of only one injury, a firefighter who was in stable condition at a hospital after experiencing smoke inhalation, Maui County spokesperson Mahina Martin said in a phone interview early Wednesday.
There’s no count available for the number of structures affected by the fires or the number of people affected by evacuations, but she said there are four shelters open, with more than 1,000 people at the largest.
“This is so unprecedented,” she said, noting that multiple districts were affected. An emergency in the night is terrifying, she said, and the darkness makes it hard to gauge the extent of the damage.
Bus routes suspended because of fires
Several transportation services were disrupted Wednesday due to wildfires burning in Maui.
The Lahaina Islander Route #20, Lahaina Villager Route #23, Kaanapali Islander Route #25, and West Maui Islander Route #28 were suspended until further notice, the county said in a public notice.
Maui Bus ADA Paratransit Service and MEO Human Service Transportation trips to and from and within West Maui were also suspended.
“All Maui Bus Commuter Services will be suspended until further notice,” the county said.
911 service down in Maui’s west side
First responders faced a hurdle in grappling with wildfires burning in Maui as 911 service went down early Wednesday.
Maui County said on social media the service was unavailable in the island’s west side at 12 a.m. local time (6 a.m. ET).
Locals are urged to call the Lahaina Police Department directly in case of an emergency.