Lahaina Fire: Deadliest US Fire in a Century

A wildfire destroyed the historical town of Lahaina, former royal capital of Hawaii, on August 9, 2023. Many people burned alive in their homes, unaware that a fire was approaching. Others burned in their cars, stuck in traffic while trying to evacuate, or drowned while trying to escape into the harbor.  Bodies are still being counted (93 so far), but the death toll could be up to 1000.

As fires become more common and more intense, we need to learn fire emergencies like Lahaina so that we can prevent them, or at least reduce the loss of life in the next fire emergency. Please join me in collecting information about what went wrong and what could have been done differently. What challenges did the people of Lahaina face as they tried to escape the flames. What could individuals have done differently to improve their odds of survival? What could the community have done differently to prevent the town from burning or to get people out in time?


  • Comments (7)

    • 2

      First article I saw on this topic, on August 9th. At that time there were only 6 confirmed dead and 20 seriously injured. Those 20 people were airlifted to a hospital on another island due to severe burns. The article talks about residents narrowly escaping the flames by jumping into the harbor.


      “The brush fire in Lahaina is one of at least seven sizable wildfires that firefighters were battling statewide Tuesday amid treacherous conditions — powerful winds, low humidity and dry brush.”

      Winds were 55 mph with gusts up to 80 mph due to a nearby hurricane. Such intense winds helped the fire to spread faster and also prevented fire fighters from using their helicopters for fire suppression or for surveillance.

    • 3

      This has happened before. The “Camp Fire” in 2018 completely destroyed the town of Paradise, and there are striking similarities in how it happened. Watch the two documentaries to learn more about wildfire survival.


      Some of my big takeaways from the Paradise fire documentaries, every one of which applied to the Lahaina documentary:

      1. I may need to evacuate with little to no warning.
      2. My first warning might be from looking out the window.
      3. Emergency responders may not know any more about the situation than I could learn by looking out the window.
      4. Even if emergency responders try to alert me, and even if I signed up for those alerts, the rarely tested alert system may fail to alert me.
      5. A car evacuation could suddenly turn into a running evacuation due to congestion.
      6. A running evacuation could suddenly turn into sheltering in place at some random place as escape routes are cut off.
    • 1

      Detailed timeline of the Lahaina fire:

      Lahaina Fire and Evacuation Timeline
      byu/BelievingDisbeliever inHawaii

    • 1

      Colorado Jones shared an article in the weekly news thread that explains why the cell phone alerts went to some residents and not others.

      Maui Sent an Evacuation Alert. Why Did So Few People Get It?


      The Hawaii wildfire offered insights into the promises and shortcomings of a wireless alert system that relies on cellphones for emergency warnings.

    • 1

      The Deadly Maui Inferno Hour by Hour

      Very detailed timeline that shows lots of explanations and video evidence, with everything clearly marked on a map for context.


    • 2
    • 1

      In survey of Lahaina wildfire survivors, 75% have respiratory issues. When preparing for wildfires, we should think not only of staying alive but also of staying healthy. That might include avoiding smoke, air filtration, respirators, and getting prompt treatment.