Number of Maui wildfire deaths rises to 80: Live updates (2023)

Editor's note: This file is based on the news of the Hawaii wildfires on Friday, Aug. 11. For the latest news and updates on the Maui fire, check out our live updates file for Saturday, Aug. 12.

The number of deaths resulting from the fires on the island has risen to 80, according to a statement by Maui County on Friday.

The number of confirmed fatalities in the 9 p.m. announcement increased from the previous figure of 67.

A fire that caused an evacuation in Kaanapali was completely extinguished by 8:30 p.m.

The fire occurred in an area where a county fueling station was set up to distribute about 3,000 gallons of gasoline and 500 gallons of diesel fuel for about 400 waiting vehicles. Fuel would not be distributed on Saturday, the county said in a statement.

New fire prompts Friday night evacuation on Maui

Police say a new fire burning on the Hawaii island of Maui has triggered the evacuation of a community to the northeast of the area that burned earlier this week.

The fire prompted the evacuation of people in Kaanapali in West Maui on Friday night, the Maui Police Department announced on social media. No details of the evacuation were immediately provided.

Traffic was halted earlier after some people went over barricaded, closed-off areas of the disaster zone and "entered restricted, dangerous, active investigation scenes," police said.

In an earlier post on Facebook Friday, police said many people were parking on the Lahaina Bypass and walking into nearby areas that were "locked down due to hazardous conditions and biohazards." Police warned violators could face arrest.

"This area is an active police scene, and we need to preserve the dignity of lives lost and respect their surviving family," the post said.

Death toll in Maui fire disaster rises to 67 amid questions about warning system

The death toll from the Maui wildfire climbed to 67 Friday as Maui fire crews battled blazes still scorching parts of the island and rescue workers searched for about 1,000 people reported missing as questions began to swirl about Hawaii's emergency warning system.

Confirmed deaths from the inferno that erupted Tuesday − fueled by winds from Hurricane Dora and exacerbated by overly dry vegetation from the ongoing drought − now officially make the Maui natural disaster the worst that Hawaii has seen since becoming a state in 1959.

There is still no end in sight. Cadaver-sniffing dogs were brought in Friday to assist the search for the dead, Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. said.

The death toll of 67 surpasses the state’s deadliest previous largest natural disaster, a 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people. An even deadlier tsunami in 1946, prior to Hawaii's statehood, killed more than 150 on the Big Island. The 1946 tsunami prompted the development of the territory-wide emergency system that includes sirens, which are sounded monthly to test their readiness.

But many fire survivors in this week's conflagration said in interviews that they didn’t hear any sirens or receive a warning that gave them enough time to prepare, realizing they were in danger only when they saw flames or heard explosions nearby.

“There was no warning. There was absolutely none. Nobody came around. We didn’t see a fire truck or anybody,” said Lynn Robinson, who lost her home in the fire.

Thousands of people have been displaced, more than 1,700 structures have been destroyed, and the historic town of Lahaina was leveled.

"Without a doubt, it feels like a bomb was dropped on Lahaina,” Gov. Josh Green said after walking the ruins of the town with the mayor.

Green said the state is initially seeking 2,000 rooms for people and asked local hotels and others to help provide temporary housing for those in need.

“We are still in life-preservation mode. Search and rescue is still a primary concern,” said Adam Weintraub, a spokesperson for Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Widespread power and cellular outages have complicated evacuation efforts, and some residents who escaped the flames questioned why Hawaii's famous emergency warning systems didn't alert them as the blazes approached.

"We got warned, but the wind was faster," Leomana Turalde, a 36-year-old who runs a sunscreen company and has family who lived in Lahaina Town, told USA TODAY. "I found out on social media. But there was no real warning."

Thomas Leonard, 74, told the Associated Press he didn't know about the fire until he smelled smoke. The retired mailman from Lahaina tried to flee in his Jeep but abandoned his vehicle when nearby cars started to explode. He took refuge behind a seawall for hours before being rescued by firefighters.

Number of Maui wildfire deaths rises to 80: Live updates (1)

Hawaii AG announces 'comprehensive review' of wildfire decisions

Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez announced in a statement Friday that her office will conduct a “comprehensive review” of decisions and polices related to the wildfires 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,” Lopez said in the statement. “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."

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green told CNN earlier Friday that he had authorized a review of the state’s response, but power outages and phone network issues were disrupting the efforts.

The announcements come after some people in Maui said they didn’t hear alarms or warnings about the fire. There are also questions about whether the area had adequate resources to deal with the disaster.

Friends and family still struggle to reach loved ones

Anna Del Castello has been trying to learn more about the situation on the ground in West Maui, where she has a home and “quite a few” friends, but the San Francisco property manager told USA TODAY that Hawaii officials are not providing enough useful information, particularly for longtime residents on the ground who are “in a crisis right now.”

“I’m finding out everything from Facebook and people’s comments, which is just crazy,” said Del Castello, 47, who visits West Maui every year. She has a family home two blocks away from Kapalua Airport that her father, a Pearl Harbor veteran, built in the 1980s.

She has not been able to get in touch with her tenant who lives there yet, she said. Del Castello believes the house is likely still standing because the fires stopped several miles south of it, according to the fire maps, she said. But cell service is still shoddy, she said, and residents near there have had to walk to nearby beaches just to text loved ones that they’re okay.

Del Castello said emergency management officials need to get cellphone towers up and running more quickly and help devastated residents on the ground communicate with the outside world. “To me, it really feels like the priorities are not right,” she said.

Some have taken to a crowdsourced online spreadsheet to locate hundreds of people created by resident Ellie Erickson and shared widely on social media. As of Friday, over 1,500 names on the list were still marked "not located."

Lahaina residents return to devastated remains of town

For the first time since the raging wildfires, Lahaina residents were allowed back to their town on Friday – only to be met with a scene of ash-ridden devastation.

Nearly every building on Front Street, the economic center of the island and heart of the community, was leveled to debris, according to Associated Press journalists who saw the area. Burnt remains from dozens of cars that didn’t make it out of the fires stood still in a frozen traffic jam.

“It hit so quick, it was incredible,” Lahaina resident Kyle Scharnhorst told the AP as he surveyed the damage to his apartment complex Friday. “It was like a war zone.”

West Maui remains without power and water, officials said, and search efforts continue in Lahaina for victims of the fire. Across the island, about 1,000 people remain missing, and parts of Lahaina are burned to the ground.

There will be a daily curfew from 10pm-6am Hawaii time in the historic Lahaina town and other areas affected by the fire, Maui County officials said in a statement. Access to Lahaina will be limited “until hazardous conditions improve.”

Residents will be required to show identification to prove they live in West Maui, and visitors will be asked for proof of their hotel bookings. Access to Lahaina will be closed daily during curfew hours.

Water in Lahaina, Upper Kula may be contaminated from fire damage, officials warn

The Maui County Water Department warned residents of Lahaina and Upper Kula that water may be contaminated from fire damage.

Statements on Friday said people in Lahaina and Upper Kula should not use tap water for drinking, cooking, or brushing teeth. For showers, officials said to use lukewarm water, limit length and ventilate the area.

The warning comes after a swift blaze destroyed some structures in the water systems, officials said, and some areas lost water pressure, which can cause harmful contaminants to enter the system.

Potable water tanks in Lahaina and Kula are available for residents to fill containers with a maximum capacity of five gallons.

The notice is in effect "until test data is available," the statement said.

Coast Guard rescues 17people in search across water

In an hours-long search across more than 450 square nautical miles, the US Coast Guard said in a statement Friday that it has rescued 17 people after the blaze sent some people fleeing into the ocean to escape the fire.

Another 40 survivors were found and assisted to shore, the agency added. There are currently no confirmed missing people in the water.

The Coast Guard said it plans to “transition to other missions later this evening, unless additional information warrants continuing searches.”

The agency has been searching for people since initial emergency reports Tuesday evening. Coast Guard officials previously estimated up to 100 people had fled into the water, NBC News reported.

Anyone with information about missing people in the water can contact Coast Guard Sector Honolulu Command Center at 808-842-2600. 

Lahaina's wildfire risk prompted worry in previous study

Lahaina’s wildfire risk is well known. Maui County’s hazard mitigation plan, last updated in 2020, identified Lahaina and other West Maui communities as having frequent wildfires and a large number of buildings at risk of wildfire damage.

The report also noted that West Maui had the island’s second-highest rate of households without a vehicle and the highest rate of non-English speakers.

“This may limit the population’s ability to receive, understand and take expedient action during hazard events,” the plan noted.

Maui’s firefighting efforts may also have been hampered by a small staff, said Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Firefighters Association. There are a maximum of 65 firefighters working at any given time in the county, and they are responsible for three islands – Maui, Molokai and Lanai – he said.

The blaze is the deadliest U.S. wildfire since the 2018 Camp Fire in California, which killed at least 85 people and laid waste to the town of Paradise.

Power could be out for weeks in some places

While power was restored to some essential services by Friday, officials warned some areas of the island could face power outages for weeks.

The County of Maui said early Friday morning that power was restored to Upcountry water pumping stations, and that water would be restored in that area after the lines were flushed.

But Hawaiian Electric said West Maui residents should be prepared for the possibility of "extended outages that could last several weeks in some areas."

Crews would start damage assessments and repairs as soon as areas are safe to access, the electric company said Thursday afternoon. There were about 12,400 customers without power Thursday.

Wildfire expert: This was foreseeable

Though officials have said the wildfires sparked and spread so quickly there was little time to warn people, one Hawaii wildfire expert said the tragedy was foreseeable.

Elizabeth Pickett, co-executive director of the nonprofit Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, told the Honolulu Civil Beat she co-authored a report nearly a decade ago that identified an increased wildfire risk to Maui, with Lahaina in an extreme risk area.

“We keep hearing from certain elected officials and other people being quoted in the media, ‘we had no idea, this is unprecedented,’” Pickens told the outlet Thursday. “But actually, those of us in the wildfire community, meaning our fire agencies, our forestry natural resource management community, we have long been working to increase our risk reduction efforts.”

Pickett said many recommended actions from the report to prevent wildfires have been implemented since its release, but only partially, and much more could have been done.

“It might not have been 100% preventable, but it could have been mitigated. It could have been lessened," she said.

Thousands flee as officials continue evacuating Maui

As crews continued to work to evacuate residents, thousands of tourists and visitors to the island left on flights by Thursday evening, officials said.

Nearly 15,000 visitors left Maui on airplanes as airlines added flights to their schedules. More than 1,200 people were evacuated from Kaʻanapali-area hotels to the airport.

Travelers were urged to book flights directly with airlines to Honolulu, and to the mainland U.S. from there. The Hawaii Tourism Authority said visitors traveling for nonessential purposes should leave the island, and nobody should travel there unless necessary.

Maui firefighters stretched thin, hampering efforts

The effort to keep the fires under control could have been hampered by the relatively small firefighting crew in Maui, said Hawaii Firefighters Association President Bobby Lee.

There are a maximum of 65 firefighters working at any given time, Lee said, out of a total of about 280 personnel. They are equipped with just over a dozen fire engines, with 14 fire stations in the county serving the islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai, according to the county.

County officials said in an update on Facebook early Friday morning that 21 firefighters, seven supervisory personnel and four vehicles from Honolulu were aiding crews in Maui, and an additional nine-member search-and-rescue team was also brought in to help.

Hawaii’s siren system didn’t sound during fires

Survivors of the fires and officials reported there was no activation of the state’s storied emergency warning system, which would have sounded blaring outdoor sirens.

Hawaii’s system, known as the All-hazard Statewide Outdoor Warning Siren System, is used to warn residents about emergencies including earthquakes, tsunamis, brush fires, flooding, lava, or terrorist events, according to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

There are over 400 sirens spread throughout the islands, including 80 in Maui County. The state says it’s the largest outdoor warning system in the country and the “largest single integrated Outdoor Siren Warning System for Public Safety in the world.”

Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Adam Weintraub told The Associated Press that records don’t show the system in Maui being activated Tuesday when fire took over. Instead, alerts were sent out through Maui County residents’ phones, televisions and radios. It’s not clear whether that happened before or after the island was hit with widespread power and signal outages.

Maui Fire Department Chief Brad Ventura said the fire moved so quickly from brush to neighborhoods that it was impossible to get messages to the emergency management agencies responsible for alerts.

“What we experienced was such a fast-moving fire through the … initial neighborhood that caught fire they were basically self-evacuating with fairly little notice,” Ventura said.

In 2019, Oahu and Maui residents were sent into a brief panic when the outdoor siren system was mistakenly triggered during a training – after a 2018 incident when the text message alert system falsely told the whole state to take cover for an incoming ballistic missile that didn’t exist.

None of the fires are 100% contained

Maui County Fire Chief Brad Ventura said none of the fires were “100% contained right now." Ventura said there are several small fires in between the large fires burning in Lahaina, Pulehu and Upcountry.

Maui County reportedthe most damaging of the three blazes, the one in Lahaina on the western part of the island, was 80% contained by Thursday morning, and that another one in Pulehu in central Maui was at 70% containment. There was no assessment yet about the fire in the mountainous Upcountry.

Ventura said there is still potential for “rapid fire behavior” with the weather and told people to remain out of the area.

Wildfires were also still burning on the Big Island, but no injuries or destroyed homes had been reported, Mayor Mitch Roth said.

Maui wildfires death toll will likely continue to climb

Maui County reported at least 36 people had died in the Lahaina fire Wednesday evening. By Thursday, the total had reached 55, and it's expected to continue rising as emergency workers reach parts of the island previously cut off by the fires and other obstructions.

President Joe Biden on Thursday declared amajor disasterin Hawaii, making federal aid available to support state and local recovery efforts. Green estimated damage to the area will likely cost billions and take years to repair.

Green said the disaster will likely become the deadliest since Hawaii became a state in 1959. He referencedthe 1960 tsunamithat hit the Big Island, killing 61 people, and said: "This time it's very likely that our death totals will significantly exceed that, I'm afraid.''

The Maui fire is also the deadliest in the U.S. in five years. Not since the2018 Camp Fire in California, which killed at least 85 and wiped out the town of Paradise, has a U.S. community endured such a tragedy.

Number of Maui wildfire deaths rises to 80: Live updates (2)

Celebrities including Oprah urge support for Maui

The BBC filmedOprah Winfreyhanding out supplies at the war memorial stadium earlier this week. "I came earlier, just to see what people needed, and then went shopping because often you make donations of clothes or whatever, and it's not really what people need," Winfrey said. "So, I actually went to Walmart and Costco and got pillows, shampoo, diapers, sheets, pillowcases."People magazinenoted Winfrey is a part-time Maui resident.

"Fast X" starJason Momoa, who is Native Hawaiian, and Connie Britton, who starred in the first season of "The White Lotus" –which was shot in Maui – have also voiced their concerns for the island.

Professional golfer Collin Morikawa, whose paternal grandparents are from Hawaii, pledged to donate $1,000 to support the rescue efforts in Maui for each of his birdies in theFedEx St. Jude Championshipas the tournament got underway Thursday in Memphis.

Before and after photos show Hawaii wildfires damage

Satellite imageryandphotos from the groundrevealed the devastating damage wildfires have done to Maui landmarks, including Lahaina's iconic banyan tree, Front Street and Waiola Church.

Number of Maui wildfire deaths rises to 80: Live updates (3)

Maui fires map

Maui wildfire map: A look at how Hurricane Dora and low humidity are fueling Hawaii fires

How to help Maui fire victims

Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, from the Hawaii State Department of Defense, asked those who want to donate supplies or volunteer to do so through theHawaii Emergency Management Agency. James Kunane Tokioka, director of the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism, said the governor has also asked people with vacant homes or vacation rentals to provide shelter for those in need.

Several shelters are open to assist those on the islands and several local organizations are collecting donations.

USA TODAY compiled resources for Americans to help people and animals in Hawaiihere.

Contributing: Damichael Cole, Memphis Commercial Appeal; Jorge L. Ortiz, Minnah Arshad and David Oliver, USA TODAY; The Associated Press


How many people died in Maui wildfires? ›

At least 99 people were killed in Maui's wildfires. With only 25% of the burn area searched, officials worry the death toll will climb.

How many confirmed deaths in Maui? ›

Gov. Josh Green announced the confirmed death toll had risen from 99 to 101 in an afternoon video address, saying, "We are heartsick that we've had such loss."

What caused the fire in Maui 2023? ›

The finding adds to evidence that the island's electric utility was the source of at least some fires reported on Aug. 7 and 8. KULA, Hawaii — At 10:47 p.m. last Monday, a security camera at the Maui Bird Conservation Center captured a bright flash in the woods, illuminating the trees swaying in the wind.

How much of Maui has burned? ›

The Pacific Disaster Center and FEMA estimated that 2,170 acres of Maui has burned, per a statement from Maui officials Saturday.

How many people have died in the Lahaina fire? ›

Lahaina wildfire: Death toll from Maui wildfire climbs to 99, making it the deadliest in the US in more than 100 years - ABC7 New York.

How many died in the Lahaina fire? ›

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said that 25% of the Lahaina area has been searched with the help of cadaver dogs. Their goal is to have 85-90% of that area searched by this weekend. So far, he added, they've only obtained three positive IDs from fingerprints on the 99 confirmed dead.

What started the fire in Lahaina? ›

Interviews and video evidence reviewed by The New York Times show that the brush fire that wound up wiping out Lahaina ignited under a snapped power line a full nine hours before it roared through town — flaring up in the afternoon after firefighters had declared it contained.

What is the crime index in Maui? ›

Among the four major Hawaiian Islands, Maui has the highest crime rate. It had a property rate of 3454 and a violent crime rate of 269. The crime rate falls as the year progresses. In 2019, the total crime index increased to 3244.

Are the Maui fires out? ›

◾ As of late Monday, the Lahaina fire was 85% contained, the Upcountry Maui fire was 65% contained and the Pulehu/Kihei fire was 100% contained but not yet extinguished.

Who started Maui fires? ›

No single cause has been determined, but experts said one possibility was that active power lines that fell in high winds ignited the wildfire that ultimately consumed Lahaina, a coastal town of 13,000 in western Maui that was leveled. Brush fires were already burning on Maui and the island of Hawaii on Aug. 8.

Where did Maui steal fire from? ›

To steal fire from his ancestress, Mahuika, Maui slipped out in the night and extinguished all the cooking fires.

Why is Maui on fire? ›

How it happened: Extreme winds augmented by Hurricane Dora, coupled with existing drought conditions across Hawaii, exacerbated the spread of the wildfires.

Could Maui erupt again? ›

Maui's massive volcano, Haleakala, will one day erupt again. Although Haleakala is considered dormant, volcanologists say that a future eruption at Haleakala is inevitable- it's not a matter of if, but when.

Is Maui in danger of volcano? ›

Maui volcanoes are safe to visit as the chance of an eruption is very low per the US Geological Survey. Haleakala is considered an active volcano by the US Geological Survey (USGS).

Has Maui ever been hit by a tsunami? ›

In the 20th century, an estimated 221 people have been killed by tsunamis. Historically, Maui has experienced tsunami wave heights as high as 33 feet. Landslides, ground cracks, rockfalls, and tsunamis are all hazards resulting from earthquakes.

How many people drown in Maui every year? ›

1 more row

How many people are still missing in Hawaii? ›

The governor added on Sunday that around 1,300 people were still missing. Many of the remains are so badly burned that families have been invited to provide DNA swabs which could help identify the victims.

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