Hawaii is experiencing one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history, with at least 111 reported deaths and hundreds, possibly thousands, of injuries on the island of Maui. The fires, which have been burning for several days, have displaced thousands of residents and tourists, destroyed historic structures, and are expected to have lasting impacts on the state's economy and tourism industry.
Aerial footage highlighted the devastation wrought by wildfires in Lahaina, Hawaii.— The Associated Press (@AP) August 17, 2023
The fires have killed more than 100 people and destroyed the historic town of Lahaina on the island of Maui, making them the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century. pic.twitter.com/hrx5BBkp2d
Searching for Survivors in Maui's Wildfires
As authorities continue to search for survivors of the wildfires, officials expect the death toll to rise. The fires have surpassed the previous record set by California's 2018 Camp Fire, which killed 85 people.
Hawaii's Governor, Josh Green, has ordered a comprehensive review into the fires on Maui Island, noting at a Sunday briefing that the blaze that destroyed much of the historic town of Lahaina was "the largest natural disaster in our history."
Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said he has ordered a comprehensive review to understand the actions taken before, during and after last week's wildfires on Maui.https://t.co/ndyVQlwgTL— KOSU (@KOSURadio) August 14, 2023
The search for missing individuals is slow due to widespread power, internet, and communications outages caused by the fire.
Currently, 38% of the search area has been cleared, according to New York Times.
Highly trained cadaver dogs take on mission of finding Maui fire victims— INDEPENDENT PRESS (@IpIndependent) August 16, 2023
Dozens of cadaver dogs have been dispatched to Hawaii to participate in search and recovery efforts after Maui fires, the deadliest US wildfires in over 100 years, hit the island.#MauiFire #hawaiifires pic.twitter.com/p8nhlFYtNl
As of now, some 5,000+ people are in need of shelter, with over 2000 seeking refuge at four emergency shelters in Maui.
In response to the disaster, President Biden approved a disaster declaration for Hawaii on Thursday, facilitating the flow of federal aid to support state and local recovery efforts.
With extensive destruction and thousands of people in need of support, these resources will be crucial for Hawaii's recovery efforts.
In addition to federal aid, Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants have sent roughly 500 pounds of items to Maui families in need. Hawaiian Airlines’ cargo team has accepted approximately 3,900 pounds of employee shipments, with the most common items being baby essentials, dried foods, canned foods, clothing, toiletries, and empty gas cans.
(2/2) We have transported more than 12,500 people out of Maui and expect to carry more than 17,000 visitors & residents out of the island in the 72 hours since the fires broke out. Read more: https://t.co/X0nSebclRS.— Hawaiian Airlines (@HawaiianAir) August 12, 2023
The Origins of the Wildfires
The wildfires ignited across Hawaii on Tuesday, August 15, 2023. Approximately 2,170 acres have been burned on Maui, as reported by Hawaii Emergency Management. Extreme winds from Hurricane Dora and drought conditions across Hawaii exacerbated the spread of the wildfires.
A Hawaii resident, Shane Treu, went outside at dawn and saw fallen power lines sparking and popping in dry grass and quickly igniting into a row of flames.
After calling 911, he live-streamed on Facebook while he wetted down his property with a garden hose.
This footage may be key evidence after many have pointed at Hawaiian Electric Company for not shutting off the power amid high wind warnings and drought concerns.
A few lawsuits have already been filed seeking to hold the company and its subsidiaries responsible for the deaths of more than 100 people, along with the injuries and extreme property damage to homes and businesses.
One of the lawsuits shows that the utility company was aware that preemptive power shutoffs such as those used in California were an effective strategy to prevent wildfires but never adopted them.
The destruction caused by the wildfires is unprecedented. At a Thursday news conference, Governor Green remarked that the damage in Lahaina was so extensive it appeared as if "a bomb went off."
Wind gusts of up to 81 miles per hour caused the wildfire to spread at a rate of "one mile every minute," destroying over 2,700 structures and causing an estimated $5.6 billion in damages. Experts say that most of these figures, including deaths and damages, are likely to continue to grow.
These wildfires are also breaking records. The death toll from the Maui fires is the highest the U.S. has seen in over 100 years. And the death toll is likely to rise.
This graph from Reuters shows that the only reason these fires are not the deadliest in history is because the others took place when cities were crowded, made of wood, and lack proper firefighting.
Impact on Tourism
The fires have had a significant impact on Hawaii and Maui's tourism industry. The county announced massive bus evacuations for residents and tourists in West Maui, transporting visitors to Kahului Airport and residents to a shelter in Central Maui.
Approximately 14,900 visitors departed from Maui on Thursday, and about 46,000 people have already left.
“We thought, maybe a few buildings are on fire, maybe a few more buildings are on fire. But...every single piece of lawn, every house, every tree, every single thing, all the way to the ocean and all the way down was on fire.”#MauiFires evacuee Chris P. at a Red Cross shelter. pic.twitter.com/lAnya2GUAS— HawaiiRedCross (@HawaiiRedCross) August 13, 2023
In response to the ongoing emergency, Hawaii issued a statement discouraging all non-essential air travel to Maui. Several major airlines have also issued travel advisories for Maui.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority urged travelers with plans to visit West Maui to consider rescheduling until after August at least.
Those who have already booked stays in other parts of Maui and the Big Island are encouraged to contact their hotels for updated information on how their travel plans may be affected.
Have you been impacted by the Maui wildfires?
If you or a loved one has been impacted by the Hawaiian wildfires, including injury or death, you can contact us at the Dolman Law Group. We are actively seeking clients for lawsuits against the negligent companies that caused these injuries and death.
We are also helping those who have lost their home or business due to the fire, to contact our property damage lawyers so we can help you get the most from your homeowners’ insurance policy or business insurance policy.
We have extensive experience fighting huge corporations like Johnson & Johnson, 3M, Dupont, Dow, Bayer, Procter & Gamble, and many more. We can help you take on Hawaiian Electric Company to get you proper compensation.