NYT: 9 Key Revelations in Maui’s First Review of the Lahaina Inferno
from New York Times, Feb 6, 2024
Many deaths on one street
…Some of the fire’s victims were found in the north part of the town, and another cluster was discovered to the south, according to maps produced by Maui county.
But the majority were in the city center. About one-third of them were found along Kuhua Street, a short road lined with residences on one side, about a half-mile from the shore. That street has a dead end to the west, and survivors have described how they struggled to escape to the east because a downed tree was blocking the roadway.
Among the deaths along Kuhua Street was the fire’s youngest victim, 7-year-old Tony Takafua, who died with several family members. Many others also died on neighboring residential streets, as those who had little warning about the blaze struggled to escape amid thick smoke and flying embers.
The report also revealed that fewer than half of the victims — 42 in all — were found inside buildings, while 39 were found outside. Fifteen others were found in vehicles, and one in the ocean. Three more people were taken to a hospital before being pronounced dead.
A delayed evacuation order
A detailed timeline of events describes a series of calls to emergency dispatchers, reporting a fast-spreading fire at 2:55 p.m. Officers soon began evacuating neighboring areas, the report said.
But it does not explore the county’s delay before issuing a broader evacuation alert. The county made a decision not to use its all-hazards siren system and waited until 4:16 p.m. to send a cellphone evacuation alert. That alert was targeted at residential neighborhoods above the Honoapiʻilani Highway.
Fire had already consumed much of the area targeted for evacuation. At the exact time the evacuation alerts were going out, the new timeline shows, officers were reporting that the fire had spread all the way down to the highway and was jumping the road — toward waterfront areas that never received an evacuation alert.
Inside the Emergency Operations Center
The after-action report found that the Maui Emergency Management Agency “fully activated” its emergency operations center at 5:50 p.m., about three hours after the fire had already started its rapid spread. By that time, the fire had moved more than a mile through town; many buildings on celebrated Front Street were engulfed in flames.
The report did not explore why the operations center waited so long to fully activate. It had been partially activated the day before, when weather forecasters warned of the likelihood of very high winds. The head of the emergency management agency, Herman Andaya, was away from Maui attending a conference at the time of the fires; he resigned in the days afterward.
Some victims appear to have died hours after the fire began
The timeline shows that the fire, which flared shortly before 3 p.m., was still spreading, hours later, into new areas of the town. Four hours later, after 7 p.m., the report describes the fire pushing south toward homes where some victims were later found dead, suggesting that long after the fire had turned into a full-blown crisis, residents who may not have initially seen themselves in danger — or who were unable to evacuate — were overcome.
After 8 p.m., the report says, the fire began threatening a neighborhood on the north side of town, near where other victims were also discovered….
read … 9 Key Revelations in Maui’s First Review of the Lahaina Inferno
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MAUI WILDFIRES OF AUGUST 8, 2023 MAUI POLICE DEPARTMENT PRELIMINARY AFTER-ACTION REPORT
form Maui Police Department, February, 2024
The multiple fast moving fires on August 8, 2023, and their aftermath, cannot be understated. Maui experienced the worst natural disaster in State history and the deadliest U.S. wildfire in over a century. The fires were vast, devastating and rapidly occurred simultaneously within multiple geographic locations throughout Maui. Lahaina town sustained the greatest loss of life and a significant amount of property damage. In total, the fires claimed 100 lives, burned 1,283 acres upcountry, 3,240 acres in south Maui, and 2,170 acres in Lahaina. At last count, the fires also destroyed dozens of homes upcountry and over 3,000 dwellings and units in Lahaina. Throughout the fires, the initial aftermath, and until today, the resilience of the community never faltered. The selflessness displayed truly showcased that in the face of adversity, the spirit of aloha not only stands true, but it shines bright.
The Maui Police Department, in collaboration with other emergency response agencies, worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of our residents, coordinate evacuations, and provide support to those in need. The bravery and resilience demonstrated by our officers, personnel, fellow first responders, and members of the community who continued to assist the community while suffering losses themselves, have been nothing short of extraordinary. The final after action report (AAR) will discuss the recommendations that were completed and those that were not.
The purpose of this after-action report is to evaluate the effectiveness of police actions, identify strengths and areas for improvement, and make recommendations to enhance future natural disaster response efforts. To date, 32 recommendations have been put forward, many of which have been implemented or are in progress.
While this preliminary after-action report provides a comprehensive overview of the police response to the recent wildfire incident that occurred on August 8, 2023, its focus is primarily on the Lahaina fires.
The Morgue Identification and Notification Task Force (M.I.N.T.) was created and operated at the MPD . This team was comprised of traffic officers, detectives, police evidence specialists, a fingerprint identification technician, forensic pathologists, and outside agency support. Decedents were examined for injury and positively identified via scientific methodology including fingerprints, DNA, dental, and medical device comparison. Next of kin was notified in-person, a family briefing was held for families of confirmed decedents and those unaccounted for, and up-to-date information was provided to families throughout the process as their family member was transferred to their chosen mortuary. This was an effective and collaborative effort due to the constant communication, problem solving, adaptability of all involved parties, and driven by sincere desire to serve the community through their loss….
read … Full Report
NYT: 9 Key Revelations in Maui’s First Review of the Lahaina Inferno
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