Residents of Maui are questioning why Hawaii’s emergency sirens did not warn them of the approaching wildfire that destroyed the historic town of Lahaina and killed at least 55 people. Records from Hawaii’s emergency management agency show no indication that the sirens were triggered before the fire. The county instead relied on emergency alerts sent to mobile phones, televisions, and radio stations. Many survivors did not hear any sirens and only realized the danger when they saw flames or heard explosions. The fire is the state’s deadliest natural disaster since a 1960 tsunami. Press Association reported
Residents of Maui who escaped a devastating wildfire that claimed the lives of at least 55 people are questioning why Hawaii’s emergency sirens did not alert them to the approaching flames. Despite having what is described as the largest outdoor all-hazard public safety warning system in the world, with around 400 sirens positioned across the island chain, there is no record of the system being triggered before the fire engulfed the historic town of Lahaina. Survivors have reported not hearing any sirens and only becoming aware of the danger when they saw the flames or heard explosions nearby. Some residents were caught off guard as power and mobile phone service had already been cut off, leaving them without real-time information. The fire, which started unexpectedly on Tuesday, quickly spread due to dry conditions and strong winds from a passing hurricane. Maui County’s hazard mitigation plan had identified Lahaina as an area at high risk of wildfires, with a large number of buildings vulnerable to damage. The firefighting efforts were also hindered by a small staff and a lack of off-road vehicles. Governor Josh Green has warned that the death toll is likely to rise as search and rescue operations continue. President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster on Maui and pledged federal assistance to those affected..