Residents of Maui are questioning why Hawaii’s emergency sirens did not warn them of an approaching wildfire that destroyed the historic town of Lahaina and killed at least 55 people. Hawaii emergency management records show no indication that the warning system was triggered, although emergency alerts were sent to mobile phones, televisions, and radio stations. The fire, fueled by dry conditions and strong winds, caught residents by surprise, as power and mobile phone service had already gone out, leaving them without real-time information about the danger. The fire is the state’s deadliest natural disaster since 1960. shropshirestar reported
Residents of Maui who managed to escape a devastating wildfire that claimed the lives of at least 55 people are questioning why Hawaii’s emergency sirens did not warn them of the approaching flames. Records from Hawaii’s emergency management agency indicate that the warning system was not triggered before the fire engulfed the historic town of Lahaina, leaving residents unaware of the danger until they saw or heard the fire themselves. Despite Hawaii’s claim of having the largest outdoor all-hazard public safety warning system in the world, with around 400 sirens scattered across the islands, many survivors in Lahaina reported not hearing any sirens. The lack of real-time information was exacerbated by power and mobile phone outages, leaving residents with no means of receiving timely updates on the situation. Some residents only became aware of the fire when they smelled smoke, and others were forced to abandon their vehicles and seek shelter as nearby cars exploded. Eventually, firefighters arrived to escort survivors to safety. It is unclear whether emergency alerts were sent before the power and phone coverage outages occurred. The fire, which began unexpectedly on Tuesday and spread rapidly due to dry conditions and strong winds, has already become the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii since a tsunami in 1960. Governor Josh Green anticipates that the death toll will rise as search and rescue operations continue. The town of Lahaina has been largely destroyed, prompting the governor to compare the scene to the aftermath of a bombing. The fire is also the deadliest wildfire in the United States since the Camp Fire in California in 2018. The risk of wildfires in Lahaina was well-known, as outlined in Maui County’s hazard mitigation plan. The plan also highlighted the town’s vulnerability due to a high population of non-English speakers and a significant number of households without vehicles. Maui’s firefighting efforts were further hindered by a small staff and a lack of off-road vehicles. The fire crews, responsible for three islands, had limited resources to combat the rapidly spreading flames. The fire’s intensity, fueled by Hurricane Dora’s strong winds, made it difficult for firefighters to contain the blaze before it reached populated areas. In light of the disaster, President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster on Maui and pledged federal assistance to those affected. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide immediate aid to those who have lost loved ones, homes, or businesses..