“Lahaina Residents Question Lack of Warning System as Wildfire Devastates Homes”

By | August 11, 2023



Residents of Lahaina, Maui, who narrowly escaped a devastating wildfire that destroyed their homes, have questioned why Hawaii’s emergency warning system did not alert them to the approaching danger. Hawaii’s emergency management records show no indication that the warning sirens were triggered before the fire, which has killed at least 53 people. Many residents claim they only became aware of the danger when they saw flames or heard explosions nearby. The county used emergency alerts sent to mobile phones, televisions, and radio stations instead of the warning sirens. TY O’NEIL,CLAIRE RUSH,JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER,REBECCA BOONE reported

Residents of Lahaina, Hawaii, who escaped the devastating wildfires that recently struck the area have questioned why the state’s emergency warning system failed to alert them to the approaching danger. Despite Hawaii’s claim to have the world’s largest outdoor all-hazard public safety warning system, records show that the warning sirens were not triggered before the fire engulfed the historic town, killing at least 53 people. Many survivors reported not hearing any sirens and only becoming aware of the danger when they saw flames or heard explosions. The absence of real-time information due to power and cell phone outages further hindered their ability to respond to the crisis. Instead of sirens, emergency alerts were sent to mobile phones, televisions, and radio stations, but it remains unclear if these alerts were received before communication lines were severed. The fire, fueled by dry conditions and strong winds from a passing hurricane, caught residents and authorities off guard. It has become the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii since a 1960 tsunami. Governor Josh Green warned that the death toll could rise as search and rescue operations continue. Lahaina was known to be at high risk of wildfires, and the county’s hazard mitigation plan had identified the area as having a large number of buildings at risk of damage. However, Maui’s firefighting efforts were hampered by a small staff and a lack of off-road vehicles to combat brush fires. The fire moved so rapidly that it was impossible to communicate with emergency management agencies responsible for issuing warnings. Mandatory evacuation orders were in place for Lahaina residents, while tourists were told to shelter in place. Many residents barely escaped the flames, running through smoke-filled roads and calling 911 as nearby buildings went up in flames. Communication on the island has been sporadic, with 911, landline, and cellular services failing at times. Power outages have also affected parts of Maui. President Joe Biden declared a major disaster on Maui and promised immediate assistance to those affected..