Initial impact estimates of Maui wildfire devastation aid whole-of-community response

August 9, 2023

By: Chani Goering

Maui, HI – From August 8-9, 2023, Maui firefighters battled blazes in four locations across the island of Maui against hurricane-force winds upwards of 80 mph, forcing evacuations in Maui’s upcountry areas of Kula and Olinda, and in south Maui.

At the same time in the historic town of Lahaina, another wildfire raged as firefighters worked tirelessly to contain its spread. Fueled by drought conditions and hurricane force winds the fire quickly overwhelmed fire suppression efforts—engulfing the town, severing communications and power.

Pictured above: PDC’s preliminary estimates of the Lahaina fire impacts produced within hours after the sunlight, and made available by 9:30am (local time) Aug 9, These estimates were used by the officials to expedite release of state, federal, and other aid.

The true gravity of destruction and loss of life in the populous town of Lahaina didn’t become apparent until daylight during the early morning hours of August 9, 2023, when reports from flight crews and others on the ground began to emerge.

Within hours, preliminary scientific estimates of the impacts on population and infrastructure were developed by the Kihei-based Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) using its All-hazards-Impact Model (AIM) and advanced analytics. PDC’s estimates provided decision-makers with the first reliable understanding of the scale of fire exposure—now considered the deadliest wildfire in U.S. modern history. With estimated impacts in hand, and full activation of emergency forces already in place, the information helped expedite bringing together agencies from the state, public, private, and humanitarian sectors to support life-saving operations.

Pictured above and below: PDC’s shares before and after satellite imagery of the impact zone in Lahaina.

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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