What went wrong? Tough questions are being asked about competence of Maui emergency preparedness


The National Weather Service had warned government in Hawaii that a powerful and dangerous wind event was on the way — days before it arrived.

But authorities on Maui and in Oahu, the capital of Hawaii, took no action to cut the power to the power lines, even after the power poles started swaying and falling over during the wind storm that fed the fire that consumed the historic town of Lahaina on Aug. 9.

Hawaiian Electric, which provides power to 95% of the island, was caught flat-footed and the government made no attempt to intervene to prevent an electrical spark. Emergency sirens were not activated, which meant the residents had no warning to evacuate.

Gov. Josh Green, if he knew the storm was coming, chose to be out of state at the time of the disaster, which is now the largest in state history.

Surrounded by water and subject to regular tropical storms, the island has had fires before on its dry side. This one is said to have been started by electric sparks from power lines that were blown down.

But the jury is still out about the cause of the inferno. Environmentalists and the media point to climate change.

Yet, there are hundreds of electric vehicles on Maui, thousands of electric bikes, all with batteries that sometimes catch fire spontaneously. There are also a number of homeless encampments. According to Maui Times, at any given time, there are approximately 800 people sleeping on the streets or in the wooded areas of Maui County.

In 2022, three people were arrested on Maui for arson after six arson brush fires were reported within a 90-minute window, burning five acres of Central Maui that May.

Could it have been arson this week as well? As of now, the officials are saying it was the electric power lines, which puts the laid-back government and utilities of Maui and Hawaii on the hot seat.

Although Hawaiian Electric knows that a power shut-off is the number one most effective strategy, as determined in California and across the dry Western states, it had not adopted it as part of its fire mitigation plans, according to the company and two former power and energy officials interviewed by The Washington Post.

“Doug McLeod, a former energy commissioner for Maui County, also said the utility was aware of the need for a regular shut-down system and to bury lines, especially given the ‘number of close calls in the past,'” The Post wrote.

Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez announced that the Department of the Attorney General will conduct a comprehensive review of critical decision-making and standing policies leading up to, during, and after the wildfires on Maui and Hawaiʻi islands this week.

“The Department of the Attorney General shares the grief felt by all in Hawaiʻi, and our hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy,” Attorney General Lopez said. “My Department is committed to understanding the decisions that were made before and during the wildfires and to sharing with the public the results of this review. As we continue to support all aspects of the ongoing relief effort, now is the time to begin this process of understanding.”

In Anchorage in 2022, Mayor Dave Bronson cleared homeless encampments from the wooded areas and centralized the campers into Centennial Campground, after a wildfire was set by a vagrant camp in the East Tudor area. At the time, his administration said it was necessary to keep a major fire from erupting during the summer fire season.

On Friday night, the County of Maui updated the fatalities to 80, (Sunday update: 96) but hundreds more are believed to be missing. Other official information provided by the county on Friday night:

  • Firefighters continue working to extinguish flare-ups and contain fires in Lahaina, Pulehu/Kihei and Upcountry Maui. 
  • A Ka’anapali fire reported above Puukolii at 6:10 p.m. Friday was reported to be 100 percent contained before 8:30 p.m. The fire is in the area where a county fueling station was positioned Friday to distribute an estimated 3,000 gallons of gas and 500 gallons of diesel for an estimated 400 vehicles that were lined up before the operation began. No fuel will be distributed Saturday.
  • Police are restricting access into West Maui through both Ma’alaea and Waihe’e. Honoapiilani Highway is open for vehicles leaving Lahaina. The burned historic Lahaina town area remains barricaded, with people warned to stay out of the area due to hazards including toxic particles from smoldering areas. Wearing a mask and gloves is advised.
  • Volunteers are distributing food, water and other supplies at Napili Plaza.
  • Food, water, toiletries, canned goods, diapers, baby formula, clothing and pet food will be distributed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Lahaina Gateway Center.
  • Donations of non-perishable food, bottled water and hygiene items will be accepted from 8 a.m. to 6 pm. Saturday at the War Memorial Complex field in Wailuku. No clothing is being accepted.
  • A Family Assistance Center for family members who are looking for information about loved ones who are unaccounted for will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Kahului Community Center.
  • The county Department of Transportation is coordinating buses to transport people staying at emergency shelters to the county Department of Motor Vehicles and Licensing, which will be open for special hours from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday so shelter occupants can have their driver’s licenses and state identification cards reissued. Fees will be waived. County are volunteering to work to open the department.
  • On Friday, a total of 1,418 people were at emergency evacuation shelters at War Memorial Gymnasium, Hannibal Tavares Community Center, Maui High School, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Maui Lani, Kings Cathedral Church and Grace Bible Church.
  • Additional cellphone service was becoming available in West Maui. Cellphone users are reminded to text not talk so everyone can share the limited resources.
  • For organizations and individuals wishing to offer services or donations to aid in the county rescue and relief efforts, an online tool is available. Information can be provided at https://tinyurl.com/mauireliefsurvey to be used to help organize and deploy resources.

Samaritan’s Purse is now on the ground in Maui, also offering relief. The website is at this link.

Photo credit: Hawaii National Guard, Master Sgt. Andrew Jackson


  1. Too much pakalolo. Island life is so casual and carefree that “fire” means time to light up another doobie. A wildfire is nothing to mess with. Mainlanders know that. In Hawaii, they never had to worry about their lives on the line from this.
    RIP, bruddahs and seestas.

    • Caught them off guard and unprepared. Those downwinds from Haleakala were fierce. High pressure and low pressure changing places and that presented the 60 mile hour winds. Fuel from uncut dry brush was the initial fuel. Homes and other structures were the end result of loss of control. This is not man made climate change as enuncified by the wackos. This is the product of man sleeping at the switch. Man can’t control the climate, but man can control emergencies like this.

  2. Hawai’i is a democrat state. Their control is by Democratic Party. I feel safer under a Red Republican leadership style governance style cause as much as the two groups run their mouth, real Republican leadership get down and work hard when they must; while Democrat leaders are missing or running helter-skelter yelling at everyone to do their job. I am sorry for the state Lana’i finds itself. Its not the end for those survivors who still have God’s breath. Though heirlooms and treasures are gone, sometimes a destruction is what we need to clear out the clutter I always say when I am overwhelmed looking at my treasures and think a fire looks mighty good right now burn all my treasures up and start all over. Or you live in Kenai through Anchorage to Wasilla an earthquake to crush everything . Hahaha.

  3. Wind blown power lines, homeless camps,on the dry side of the island. Definitely global warming is the cause, as is everything these days. And wouldn’t want to kill the power and inconvenience anyone. They need their electricity. What an avoidable loss of life and property. There’s lessons to be learned because we often have the same conditions here. It will be a horrible day when a windstorm causes the same thing here on a dry summer day. Maybe not this year. But a plan would be good. Maybe a warning horn with an independent source of power for one. Maybe water storage tanks on the hillside for firefighting. Low investment for such emergencies. High density housing is a fire hazard, yet the assembly wishes for it.

  4. Moreover I am sure some musician somewhere is soothing himself, family, friends, and neighbors with his Ukulele playing. Why we should all had invested in playing a musical instrument before a disaster that we can carry it with us, so after the disaster and you are left speechless, you have your little musical instrument including your voice to express and soothe your broken heart. Acoustic music playing , along with God, is a special tool used to keep our mind moving forward like toward rebuilding efforts so you can have a home once again chalk-full of treasures and along with a rebuilt a community making new or rebuilding history as Sitka , AK did rebuilding its Orthodox Church when it too burned to the ground. And maybe a new governance leadership style governing the local community of Lana’i that’s not Democrat.

  5. One more thing- I just heard the tweet tweets on the video. The song birds are surveying and rebuilding along with the humans. They rebuilding their new territories and Sheltering holes after the old ones got burned up. At least the birds have the right spirit in the matter and their song is more uplifting than the forlorn faces of the national guard. There very little we need in this life. The Word of God tells us ‘to store up our treasures in Heaven where moths, corrosion, thief, and destruction can’t take it.’ The birds have the right spirit as long as it has life it’ll keep on living and merrily singing while rebuilding its territories where it’ll find food and sleep.

  6. Blessings to the Hawaii islands! Prayers needed! Not political bullish crap! And they need assistance! Let’s make sure they get it!

  7. Here are the three requirements for avoiding all sorts of conflagration:
    Fire prevention – obviously
    Fire protection – design & construct structures and landscapes to slow or stop fire spread
    Fire suppression – fire department
    The Lahaina conflagration demonstrated the State/local governments’ weaknesses in all three areas.

    Oh, one more important requirement, the very first thing, which is a clear-headed ‘hazard and risk assessment.’ Reportedly, such an assessment was conducted in recent years for Maui, and the wildland/urban interface fire hazard and risks (various ignition sources, dry landscape, wind events, densely-built wooden structures, inadequate fire breaks, no off-road fire suppression equipment, minimal firefighting crews, etc), but little or nothing was done afterwards to enhance prevention, protection, and suppression. “Too difficult! Too much expense!” Now, however, the State/local gooberments must face the music and pay the musician. First, though, we will hear the sad music of a requiem.

    As for the local warning and evacuation plan and execution… ah, that matter needs a bit more work, too. The ocean, though, does work in a pinch.

  8. Anyone else notice an astounding similarity to the still unexplained northern California fires that reduced entire homes, buildings and vehicles to ash, while leaving trees, shrubs and plastic trashcans relatively unscathed? Look again at the aerial photos of the aftermath, then point out the ignition point, and cause of the fire?

    • Exactly the first thing that I noticed! Eerily similar to the Paradise fire. I read that many places have been converted to smart meters, including the boat slips. Aerial footage shows high heat scorching next to buildings but the grass out away from the buildings was okay – like the buildings started on fire and not the surroundings bringing the fire. Things that make you go hmmmm. Bad when our “government” attacks us.

    • Yep. I did immediately. DEW
      Paradise CA
      Santa Rosa CA
      Lytton Canada
      Look at the photos, all similar

  9. It is too easy to blame the electric company. Spark events can happen but no specific case has been suggested here. That said, if you have been to Hawaii you understand that the utility infrastructure is not good. Upgrading utility infrastructure takes a lot of money. The fire response/suppression folks there do not inspire confidence. This is a horrible tragedy. Thus, connect it to climate change, fossil fuels and any large corporations. And file lawsuits.

  10. I have family and friends in Maui. Both up in the Kula area where there are also wildfires, but they are burning in ravines and difficult to access. The ravines act as a barrier to hopefully keep the fires contained. Still, my sis and others are packed and ready to vacate if they have to. They are warned not to drink tap water or even boil it. She said neighbors are very caring and bend over backwards to help each other, so they might take them up on an offer to use their shower. King’s Chapel in Wasilla is connected to a large church on West Maui that is sheltering folks along with other facilities. As for the recent storm, her place was not damaged. It snapped a few trees and knocked over some planters, but no windows were broken. However, she said there is another storm on its way. Let’s not be cruel…the people are devastated and need our prayers and support.

  11. Almost as if this was coordinated for maximum destruction.

    This is not a “wild” fire. Stop letting the headlines lie to you.

    Now, watch for some org or corp to buy up a ton of land for cheap.

    • Well then do something about it.

      Start a GoMeFund to hire the best legal counsel.

      They represent the people who lost everything, and they get a free trip to Maui, after the new houses are built.

      Might be enough left over to build a new hotel, and they can stay there.

      Proceeds from the hotel go to the residents.

  12. This just makes me appreciate all the more the way Alaska fire fighters and hot shots and fire personnel takes care of any wildfires near infastructure extremely quickly and efficiently. Thank you so much for keeping us safe here in the Interior.

    • Unless they are told to stand down. Alaska seems to be getting primed to be burnt down with all the spraying, fast-growing plants and then dry, dry, hot sun. I wonder how long it takes to make the conditions ideal for an uncontrollable burn? Three years? Five years?

  13. High density development should not be permitted using inexpensive stick frame construction anywhere. Just another example of what can happen. And this is exactly what is being proposed by our assembly.

  14. I spent some time thawing on the islands many years ago and my thoughts on the electrical grid in Lahaina especially was very crude and every pole was overloaded with wires going every direction.
    It reminded me of bush Alaska villages but then when I looked at credit card statements how much it cost to hang out in Maui I steered myself to mexico which was much more affordable AND friendlier.
    After seeing this happen it makes me wonder what all those tax fees collected were spent on the last 50 years or so being the most expensive state to vacation next to Cali.
    The reported 800 homeless on the streets in Maui county may be a clue where all the tourist tax flow is going Felix/Meg/Kameron.
    They also have mega sized cruise ships dumping thousands of tourists with pockets bulging monthly$$$$$$ in Lahaina alone. Thats a lot of dough.
    Just looking at the cost of homeless in Anchorage one can see where infrastructure and emergency preparedness could be neglected and overlooked and spent on homeless people who many are able but simply lazy and addicted by choice alone as well as being aided by the warped nonprofit working assembly members.

    Just imagine another Good Friday mega quake in Anchorage. The loss of life during and after would be immense if it came in January. I could see being without power and gas for up to a month or more in many places especially outlying areas. Add a few heavy snowfalls in the aftermath and it would be “the perfect storm”.
    If you think the homeless numbers are huge now F**k around and find out after another mega quake!
    Our tax dollars are being pissed away on expensive hotel rooms for people that could but wont help themselves. I have tried to hire several and the answer is always the same…”I dont need to work”.”I have free food and shelter”.

  15. The speed at which this fire spread made it impossible for any warning to go out. Simple as that, though I’m not surprised to see so many on here try and make it a political thing and blame someone…..anyone.

    • We elect citizens as leaders because of our confidence in their abilities to take care of community governance and business;as well as appoint other competent citizens to manage community business for all our sake. It’s their responsibility to look after the safety and security of the community. If one doesn’t want that high level of responsibility, then the recommendation is for a leader, employer, or supervisor to resign and go back to being team member rather than team leader. Being a team leader or community leaders is a 24 hr seven day week job, leaders must always be alert all day and night even while sleeping so they can get out of bed.

  16. Once again you are uninformed. It is difficult to read and understand incident reports while in the sandbox.
    The National Weather service gave the entire group of islands advance notice of the incoming storm DAYS before it arrived.
    Much like they do when a hurricane is building speed and velocity in the gulf or atlantic which gives residents time to evacuate entire cities with all of their valuables.
    Simple as that, though uninformed fools continue to pretend there was nothing anyone could do but bury the innocent and pretend it is “Climate Change”.
    Simply shutting down the power grid alone which could have been done at a moments notice would have eliminated nearly all the ignition source.
    It is a Democrat run city in a Democrat run State with a disappearing Democrat Governor tells me all I need to know about incompetence at the worst level.
    Heads should roll and people should be held accountable for all the unnecessary loss of life.

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