Residents of Maui are questioning why the emergency warning system did not alert them to the approaching wildfire that killed at least 55 people and destroyed a historic town. Records show that no sirens were triggered before the fire, despite Hawaii boasting the largest outdoor all-hazard public safety warning system in the world. Many survivors in Lahaina said they only realized the danger when they saw flames or heard explosions. The fire, fueled by dry conditions and strong winds, caught residents off guard due to power and cell phone outages that left them without real-time information. TY O’NEIL, CLAIRE RUSH, JENNIFER SINCO KELLEHER and REBECCA BOONE, Associated Press reported
Residents of Lahaina in Maui, Hawaii, are questioning why the state’s emergency warning system did not alert them to the approaching fires that destroyed their homes and claimed at least 55 lives. Despite Hawaii’s claim to have the world’s largest outdoor all-hazard public safety warning system, records show that no warning sirens were triggered before the devastating wildfire. Survivors reported not hearing any sirens and only becoming aware of the danger when they saw flames or heard explosions. Many were left without real-time information due to power and cell phone outages. The fire, fueled by dry conditions and strong winds, caught Maui by surprise and quickly spread across the island, leveling homes and buildings. Lahaina, a town with a known wildfire risk, was particularly hard-hit. The state’s firefighting efforts were hampered by a small staff and a lack of off-road vehicles. Communication to emergency management agencies responsible for issuing warnings was also hindered due to the rapid spread of the fire. Mandatory evacuation orders were in place for Lahaina residents, but tourists in hotels were instructed to shelter in place. The chaotic evacuation was further complicated by downed power poles that blocked important escape routes. Residents who managed to escape described running through the night and into the next day, with toxic smoke causing vomiting. Communication remains a challenge on the island, with 911, landline, and cellular service experiencing intermittent failures. President Joe Biden has declared a major disaster on Maui and pledged federal assistance to those affected by the wildfires..