Deadly wildfires burning across Maui prompt evacuations

By Aditi Sangal, Eric Levenson, Elise Hammond, Tori B. Powell, Maureen Chowdhury, Amir Vera, Adrienne Vogt and Elizabeth Wolfe, CNN

Updated 10:37 a.m. ET, August 10, 2023
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3:16 p.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Evacuated Maui resident says his homes have likely been destroyed by fire

Buildings are seen on fire in Lahaina, Maui, on Wednesday.
Buildings are seen on fire in Lahaina, Maui, on Wednesday. Alan Dickar/TMX

Alan Dickar, a resident of the town of Lahaina on Maui, saw one of his houses burn and the other engulfed in smoke as he evacuated the area due to fires.

"One of my houses definitely caught fire," he said, adding that his other properties "were completely covered in smoke."

"I did not see them burn, but I recognize there is a very good chance that they are not there anymore," he said.

Dickar said he has "never seen anything like this."

"The winds started overnight and there wasn't any real warning about this," he told CNN. "The thing about this wind is it was a lot of gusts — 40 or 50 miles an hour. And this is in the middle of the night because things were breaking, branches were coming down, and I went outside at one point, and I had trouble standing up against the wind."

While Dickar successfully evacuated Lahaina, he said he was forced to evacuate again when he reached the town of Kula, which had also received evacuation orders.

"So now, I'm in a totally different part of Maui in a rainforest, because I figured that was enough. And I'm safe here at least from a fire evacuation because it's a rainforest," he said.

10:24 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Drone video shows what the Maui wildfire looks like from above

From CNN’s Caroll Alvarado

A drone video taken by Clint Hansen of Maui Real Estate Radio shows what the wildfire looked like at about 2:45 a.m. local time Wednesday.

In the video, there are cinders on the ground as well as a bright orange glow of fire off in the distance. The fire is moving toward Kahului on the north side of the island, Hansen said.

Watch his video:

10:05 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Hawaii National Guard is supporting local emergency responders with wildfires on Maui

From CNN’s Chris Boyette

Hawaii National Guard members are deployed on Maui as wildfires burn out of control on the island, according to state officials.

“Hawaii National Guardsmen have been activated and are currently on Maui assisting Maui Police Department at traffic control points,” Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Hawaii's adjutant general, posted on Facebook.

The overnight deployment was hastened by the dynamic fire conditions, and additional National Guard personnel are expected to arrive in Maui and Hawaii counties later Wednesday, Hara said.

Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke, who is acting as the governor as Gov. Josh Green travels out of the state, issued an emergency proclamation related to the fires on Tuesday, which activated the Guard. 

3:17 p.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Maui county official says fires are "not contained in any fashion"

Mahina Martin, chief of communications and public affairs in Maui County, told CNN on Wednesday morning that fires in three areas on the island are "not contained in any fashion."

"They are all active fires, creating the need for urgent evacuations in a variety of places throughout those districts," she said.

About 2,000 visitors are stuck at the local airport with nowhere to go, she said.

Flames have destroyed businesses on Front Street – a major tourist strip in the historic Maui town of Lahaina, CNN affiliate Hawaii News Now reported. Elsewhere on the island, the Upcountry fire is estimated to be about 1,000 acres, according to county officials.

The south side of Maui island been ordered to evacuate following the existing mandatory evacuation orders in place for both residential and commercial districts.

Martin spoke to CNN at about 3:30 a.m. local time (9:30 a.m. ET) and said officials will know more when daybreak comes.

“We are certainly facing an all hands on deck (situation),” she said. “We're most concerned with the western side of the island."

9:48 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

How Hurricane Dora is helping fan strong winds over parts of Hawaii

From CNN's Derek Van Dam

Hurricane Dora is seen moving across the Pacific Ocean with Hawaii to its north in this satellite image taken in the early hours of Wednesday.
Hurricane Dora is seen moving across the Pacific Ocean with Hawaii to its north in this satellite image taken in the early hours of Wednesday. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Winds associated with powerful Category 4 Hurricane Dora, which is passing hundreds of miles south of Hawaii, are helping to fan strong winds over the islands.

Meteorologist Robert Bohlin from the National Weather Service in Honolulu explains how:

CNN: Can you attribute the winds from Hurricane Dora to this wildfire event?

Bohlin: The winds are not directly from Hurricane Dora. Rather, they are gradient winds between a strong high pressure center north of the Hawaiian Islands and a strong low pressure center, Hurricane Dora, passing to the south of the island chain. The tropical storm and hurricane force winds with Dora are a different dynamic.

CNN: How are the winds fueling the fires?

Bohlin: There are downslope winds, funneling winds through mountain saddle areas and likely mountain wave wind gusts on the leeward slopes of island mountain ranges that strengthen these wind speeds. Strong winds can affect the speed and direction of fire spread and fire behavior.

CNN: Do we know what started the fire?

Bohlin: Fire investigations take time and the appropriate agencies will investigate the fire causes at a later date.

9:06 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Multiple schools closed because of spreading brush fires and evacuations

From CNN’s Eli Masket

Ten public schools in Maui will be closed Wednesday due to a combination of fires, evacuations and unsafe conditions caused by heavy winds, according to Hawaii Department of Education.

State education officials said in a press release that multiple schools would be closed in South Maui due to “spreading bush fires and evacuations in the area.”

Maui High School will be closed to students and staff on Wednesday because it is being used as a shelter for evacuees, according to the department.

A handful of schools were also closed Tuesday over concerns about the heavy winds that officials believe contributed to the spreading fires.

9:20 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Hospitals overwhelmed and communications systems down in some Maui areas, lieutenant governor says

From CNN’s Chris Boyette

Smoke rises from a wildfire in Maui, Hawaii, on Tuesday.
Smoke rises from a wildfire in Maui, Hawaii, on Tuesday. Dominika Durisova via Reuters

The hospitals on the island of Maui are overwhelmed with burn patients and people suffering from smoke inhalation, Hawaii’s Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke told CNN, adding that caring for those injured in the wildfires has been hampered by the difficulty of transporting patients to other facilities,

“We are already in communication with other hospital systems about relieving the burden — the reality is that we need to fly people out of Maui to give them burn support because Maui hospital cannot do extensive burn treatment,” Luke said. “In addition to dealing with disaster, we're dealing with major transportation issues as well.”

Authorities are also struggling to communicate with areas cut off by the wildfires and coordinate evacuations, Luke said.

“911 is down. Cell service is down. Phone service is down. That's been part of the problem. The Maui County has not been able to communicate with residents on the west side, the Lahaina side,” Luke said.

Satellite phones have been the only reliable way to get in touch with some people, including those in hotels, she added.

“What we are trying to do is deploy individuals to go into areas with satellite phone service. We have only been in contact with perhaps one hotel because the one hotel, the people in charge of that hotel have satellite phones,” Luke said. “That's the only way you can make connection. It's impeding communication. It’s impeding efforts to evacuate residents and we are very concerned about that.”

State officials are working with the hotels and a local airline to evacuate tourists to another island, the lieutenant governor said.

9:31 a.m. ET, August 9, 2023

Maui wildfires are "unprecedented," lieutenant governor says

From CNN’s Chris Boyette

 

Hawaii’s Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke called the wildfires burning on Maui "unprecedented" and said the state is facing severe challenges to fight the flames. 

“When we deal with hurricane and disasters following hurricane, we're usually dealing with heavy rain, we’re dealing with flooding,” Luke told CNN. “The fact that we have wildfires in multiple areas as a result of indirectly from a hurricane is unprecedented; it's something that Hawaii residents and the state have not experienced.”

Hurricane Dora is located more than 500 miles south of the Hawaiian Islands, and its direct winds remain several hundred miles from Hawaii. But strong winds are developing over the islands as a result of high pressure to the north and low pressure from Dora to the south. 

The lieutenant governor has called on the White House to declare a federal emergency. 

“We're going to need FEMA support,” Luke said. “We're going to need National Guard support.”

Watch the interview:

3:17 p.m. ET, August 9, 2023

The south side of Maui has also received evacuation orders, official says

From CNN meteorologist Derek Van Dam and Robert Shackelford

Flames are seen at the intersection of Hokiokio Place and Lahaina Bypass in Maui, Hawaii, on Tuesday night.
Flames are seen at the intersection of Hokiokio Place and Lahaina Bypass in Maui, Hawaii, on Tuesday night. Zeke Kalua/County of Maui

The south side of Maui island also has just been ordered to evacuate following the existing mandatory evacuation orders in place for both residential and commercial districts, according to Mahina Martin, chief communications officer at the Maui Emergency Management Agency.

"Right now, emergency shelters are open in a number of areas across parts of West Maui and South Maui. But as precautionary measures because of the ongoing fires, we've relocated the emergency shelters outside of the district," Martin told CNN.

"In West Maui, we moved shelters away from the fire. There were 150 evacuees inside and 200 outside, and we've since relocated them to different emergency shelter outside of the district. Currently, we have four evacuation centers set up with another opening shortly," she added.

The mayor of Maui signed an emergency proclamation, requesting assistance from state and federal agencies, including the National Guard, Martin said, adding that the request is currently being processed.