Destructive wind-whipped wildfires have ravaged the Hawaiian island of Maui in a matter of four days and have tragically resulted in the loss of at least 114 lives, Maui County officials said on Sunday, August 20.
Authorities anticipate the death toll will rise as authorities continue to comb through neighborhoods and homes reduced to ashes. The magnitude of the catastrophe has made it challenging to provide a precise count of structures that have been destroyed or damaged. Still, authorities say at least 2,700 structures were destroyed in Lahaina alone, and thousands of Hawaii residents are now homeless.
“What we saw today was likely the largest natural disaster in Hawaii state history,” said Hawaii Governor Josh Green on August 10. “It’s going to take a great deal of time to recover from this, but we have the support from every level of government all the way up to the federal level … It will be a tremendous effort, but we will come together as a community and begin working toward rebuilding from this tragedy.”
Maui wildfires: Facts, FAQs, and how to help
- Fast facts: Maui wildfires
- What is causing the fires in Maui?
- What was destroyed by the wildfires in Maui?
- Is the Lahaina fire contained?
- How is World Vision responding to Maui’s wildfires?
- How can I help children and families impacted by the Maui wildfires?
Fast facts: Maui wildfires
- The Maui fire ranks among the top 10 deadliest U.S. wildfires on record since 1871, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
- The death toll has risen to 114 people on Sunday, August 20. Maui County Police Chief John Pelletier estimates another 1,000 people remain unaccounted for.
- Governor Green estimates the damage from the fires at nearly $6 billion.
- Hurricane Dora, a Category 4 storm, moved across the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles south, generating high winds on the islands and fueling at least three fires on Maui on August 8.
- The U.S. Coast Guard rescued 14 people who ran into the ocean to escape the fire and smoke, according to Maui County officials.
- The town of Lahaina, the former royal capital of Hawaii and prominent tourist spot, “is gone,” said Mark Gudmunson, senior pastor of Pukalani Community Church of the Nazarene in Pukalani, Hawaii.
- The wildfires displaced thousands of people, while over 12,000 Maui residents lost power, and communications were knocked out.
What caused the fires in Maui?
The exact cause of the wildfires is under investigation. High winds fueled multiple fires that started shortly after midnight on Tuesday, August 8, said Maui County Fire Chief Brad Ventura. He noted that wind gusts reached 60 mph during the Lahaina fire.
The fires were exacerbated by a very dry summer, low humidity, and strong winds from passing Hurricane Dora. Blazes rapidly spread through parched growth covering the island and then consumed homes and buildings in its path.
On August 8, the National Weather Service in Honolulu issued a red flag alert for “high fire danger with rapid spread” and advised residents to secure their property and to expect power outages and “difficult travel.”
The impact has devastated communities in Maui. Governor Green stated in a news release, “We have suffered a terrible disaster in the form of a wildfire that has spread widely due to hurricane-force winds in the region and underlying drought conditions. Maui and the Big Island both experienced significant fires. Much of Lahaina on Maui has been destroyed, and hundreds of local families have been displaced.”
What was destroyed by the wildfires in Maui?
The blaze devoured the former Hawaiian royal capital and major tourist spot, Lahaina, on the island’s western shore. It destroyed hundreds of area homes and businesses. In addition, fires have also affected the town of Kihei on Maui’s southwest coast and the inland Upcountry area.
“The city of Lahaina is gone; the city of Kihei is damaged greatly. Pulehu has lost so many houses,” said Pastor Gudmunson. “All of the destruction is all around our little church and our little community.”
Is the Lahaina fire contained?
The fire in Lahaina was 90% contained on Sunday, August 20, according to Maui County. Both the Kula fire and the Olinda fire are 85% contained. The fire in Kihei has been 100% contained since August 12. Officials explain that a 100% contained fire does not necessarily mean it is fully extinguished — but that it has been brought under control and is being closely monitored to prevent further spread.
How is World Vision responding to the Maui wildfires?
World Vision is responding swiftly to support affected families during this critical time. We’re partnering with Pukalani Community Church of the Nazarene and other local community organizations to help families impacted by the devastation. The church, located on 2.5 acres of land in the Upcountry area, has access to fresh water, making it an ideal location to launch our emergency response.
“We have become the hub of resources for people that have no hope, that have nothing but the clothes on their back … We’re doing all that we can to get the resources where they need to go: to the people,” said Gudmunson.
We’re also collaborating with a food distributor in Honolulu, Hawaii, to help deliver 500 Crisis Relief Boxes to the church to be distributed to local families. Inside each box will be fresh fruits and vegetables that don’t need to be refrigerated or cooked. World Vision has also transferred money to the church to continue purchasing desperately needed emergency supplies.
How can I help children and families impacted by the Maui wildfires?
- Pray: Join us in praying for the people of Maui and across the Hawaiian Islands affected by these catastrophic fires.
- Give: Your gift will help provide essential care to children and families impacted by the wildfires in Hawaii and other disasters across the U.S.