Early assessments help inform whole-of-government response, increase Maui wildfire response coordination

August 12, 2023

By: Chani Goering

Maui, HI — The County of Maui and its first responders, along with Governor Josh Green, the Hawai’i National Guard, and FEMA held a press briefing to communicate the magnitude of the catastrophic impacts from the firestorm events to the general public.

With so little information available from the devastated sites, Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) worked in collaboration with the Maui County Enterprise GIS Team and other stakeholders to refine impact estimates used as the basis for the briefings.

It was the first time that official estimates were publicly broadcast by the County of Maui detailing the likely population and infrastructure impacts of the fire on the town of Lahaina. PDC’s estimates also included the upcountry community of Kula where fires continued to burn.

Communities remained hard-hit by the wildfire event with mass water shut-off, as well as power and communications outages for tens of thousands of Maui residents. Additional impacts included major highway closures and overloaded flights transporting thousands of Maui tourists off the island to safety. Maui officials pleaded with tourists on the west side of Maui to return home—calling on local hotels to make room for the thousands of displaced Maui residents impacted by the fire that ravaged Lahaina town.

During the press conference, Hawaii National Guard and FEMA introduced plans to conduct search and recovery and provide financial assistance respectively, while Red Cross highlighted community services available to through the several shelters set up for displaced residents.

About PDC

Winner of the 2022 United Nations Sasakawa Award for Disaster Risk Reduction, the University of Hawai’i’s Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) is a global leader in the application of life-saving disaster management science, early warning technology, and advanced analytics. Our risk intelligence products provide decision-makers with the essential insights and information needed to act early to protect communities from hazards.PDC works to support the most demanding needs of nonprofits and government organizations worldwide in a collective mission to create a safer, more disaster-resilient world.

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