Hawaii wildfires: Death toll rises, making fire deadliest in US in more than a century

Raging wildfires that sparked Tuesday burned homes and businesses in Hawaii, forcing thousands of residents to flee and causing dozens of deaths.

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The fires, fueled by strong winds brought by Hurricane Dora, are burning on Maui and the Big Island, officials said.

Death toll at 89; blaze deadliest in US since 1918

Update 10:46 p.m. EDT Aug. 12: The death toll from the fires in Maui has risen to 89, authorities said late Saturday. That makes the blaze the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century, The Associated Press reported.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green confirmed the figures on Saturday, The Washington Post reported.

The figure tops the 85 people killed in the 2018 Camp Fire in northern California. The Cloquet Fire in northern Minnesota in 1918 killed hundreds of people and destroyed thousands of homes in several communities in the drought-stricken area, according to the AP.

Meanwhile, at least 1,000 people have been reported missing since the fires began, U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, told the Post on Saturday.

“The search process is continuing until we can account for everybody,” Hirono told the newspaper.

-- Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Residents in Kaanapali being evacuated

Update 9:33 a.m. EDT Aug. 12: Maui police said in a Facebook post early Saturday morning that Kaanapali residents are being evacuated due to a fire in West Maui.

At this time, there are no restrictions to exit the west side. Our priority is to ensure the safety of the community and first responders. We will allow entrance once it is safe to do so,” police said.

Police also said that no unauthorized personnel will be able to get access into “the burnt-out disaster zone.”

- Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Death toll climbs to 80

Update 8:04 a.m. EDT Aug. 12: Maui County officials confirmed that 80 people have died in the wildfire, according to The Associated Press.

Officials set a curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Saturday as search and rescue efforts continue.

- Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Officials confirm 67 deaths

Update 7:26 p.m. EDT Aug. 11: Maui County confirmed in a news release Friday that 12 additional deaths have been confirmed, which brings the total to 67 people.

Thirty-six deaths were confirmed on Wednesday and 19 others were confirmed on Thursday, according to the news release.

The fire has not yet been contained.

- Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Governor says death toll rises to 59

Update 6:40 p.m. EDT Aug. 11: Gov. Josh Green confirmed to CNN that at least 59 people were killed in the Hawaii wildfires. That number is up four from the previously confirmed number of 55 deaths.

Green reiterated that the death toll will continue to climb.

“Without a doubt, there will be more fatalities. We do not know, ultimately, how many will have occurred,” Green said, according to CNN.

-- Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Governor says residents will be able to return home Friday

Update 1:25 p.m. EDT Aug. 11: Gov. Josh Green told KHON-TV that residents will be able to return to their homes on Friday after devastating fires burned for days on Maui, destroying homes and leading to dozens of deaths.

He warned, however, that residents “will see destruction like they’ve not ever seen in their lives,” according to KHON.

The return comes as nearly 11,000 people remain without power on Maui, according to, a site that tracks outages.

How to help those impacted by Maui wildfires

Update 1:15 p.m. EDT Aug. 11: As authorities continue to search for survivors and survey damage caused by fires burning on Maui, there are several ways to help impacted residents.

VP Harris: Hawaiian officials ‘will have our full support’

Update 12 p.m. EDT Aug. 11: Speaking with reporters Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris reiterated vows to support the people of Hawaii as they grapple with devastating fires that continue to burn on Friday.

“We are coordinating federal resources to swiftly get there to support the work that has to be done, both in terms of recovery, but (also) to just support the folks on the ground,” she said. “It is tragic what has happened there. I have full faith and confidence in the leadership in Hawaii to stay on top of this, but they will have our full support.”

Harris and President Joe Biden are monitoring the situation. On Thursday, the president approved a disaster declaration for the state, making federal funding available for the response and eventual recovery efforts.

Harris said she and Biden are also monitoring to determine when it will be best to travel to Hawaii to see the damage.

“We want to, obviously — as with most of these kinds of situations — do whatever’s in the best interests of the folks on the ground, and we don’t want to distract from the resources that need to go into the victims of this tragedy and of course, the needs that the first responders have to be able to focus on that issue and not worry about focusing on us if we’re there,” she said.

Nearly 15,000 visitors left Maui on Thursday

Update 9:55 a.m. EDT Aug. 11: Maui County officials said that 14,900 visitors left the island on Thursday as firefighters continue to battle blazes that sparked amid strong winds on Tuesday.

In a statement posted on social media, officials said people wanting to leave Maui can book flights to Honolulu and continue on to the mainland from there.

Lahaina fire 80% contained

Update 9:25 a.m. EDT Aug. 11: The devastating fire burning through Lahaina has been 80% contained after it sparked Tuesday, fueled by strong winds brought by the passing of Hurricane Dora, according to officials in Maui County.

In a statement, officials said the flames burned more than 270 structures.

Firefighting efforts continue in Lahaina and for fires in Pulehu and Upcountry Maui. As of Thursday, the Pulehu fire was 70% contained. Authorities did not have a percentage estimate for how much the Upcountry Maui fire was contained.

Officials in Hawaii County said three brush fires that began Tuesday also continued to burn on Friday.

2 more deaths reported with more expected

Update 8:35 a.m. EDT Aug. 11: Officials in Maui County said the death toll has risen to 55 after two more fatalities were confirmed on Thursday night local time.

“As firefighting efforts continue, 2 additional fatalities have been confirmed today amid the active Lahaina fire,” officials said in a news release. “Thirty-six fatalities were confirmed as of Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. Another 17 were confirmed midday today, Aug. 10, 2023. Two were added by end of day today.”

The county’s mayor, Richard Bissen, said Friday on the “Today” show that authorities expect the death toll to continue to climb.

“We have not yet searched in the interior of the buildings. We’re waiting for FEMA to help with that search as they are equipped to handle the hazmat conditions of the buildings that have been burnt,” he said.

“Right now, our focus is on finding any missing persons, we want to reunite families, we want to give people information, whether their family member’s at one of our shelters or whether they are among those who have perished, we need to get that information to our citizens.”

Wildfires ‘largest natural disaster in Hawaii’s history’

Update 9:58 p.m. EDT Aug. 10: Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said in a news conference Thursday that the wildfires are the worst natural disaster in the history of the state, according to CNN.

“What we’ve seen today has been catastrophic,” Green said.

“We are seeing loss of life here. As you know, the number has been rising, and we will continue to see loss of life,” Green said, adding that “many hundreds of homes” have been destroyed, according to CNN.

Crews are working on rescuing people and getting the fire out. The next phase will be recovery efforts which officials at the news conference Thursday said could take days, weeks, months, and even years.

— Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Officials confirm 53 deaths

Update 7:32 p.m. EDT Aug. 10: Lahaina, Pulehu, and Upcountry Maui fire departments confirmed in a combined update Thursday evening that 17 additional deaths have been reported in addition to the 36 deaths reported Wednesday evening.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said, according to The Associated Press, that the death toll is likely to rise. Green also said more than 1,000 structures were destroyed by the fires.

— Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

Officials to assess damage in Maui

Update 2:45 p.m. EDT Aug. 10: Hawaii Gov. Josh Green, Sen. Brian Schatz and officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency plan to assess damage Thursday left by fires on Maui.

Schatz, D-Hawaii, said in a statement posted on social media that search and rescue operations and efforts toward tamping out the flames remain ongoing, though “winds (are) finally backing off.”

“The number of dead continues to rise,” he added.

Biden approves disaster declaration for Hawaii

Update 12:45 p.m. EDT Aug. 10: President Joe Biden on Thursday approved a disaster declaration for Hawaii as wildfires sparked Tuesday continue to burn on Maui and the Big Island.

The declaration makes federal funding available to aid in the response and eventual recovery efforts.

On Wednesday, the president and first lady Jill Biden shared condolences to families who lost loved ones in Maui and prayers for people whose homes and businesses were destroyed.

“We are grateful to the brave firefighters and first responders who continue to run toward danger, putting themselves in harm’s way to save lives,” the president said in a statement. “I have ordered all available Federal assets on the Islands to help with response.”

Authorities said that at least 36 people have died as flames continue to burn.

More than 50 rescued after running into ocean to escape fires

Update 11:30 a.m. EDT Aug. 10: Officials with the U.S. Coast Guard rescued 17 people who fled from flames in Lahaina and helped to recover 40 others, officials told CNN.

“On Tuesday night, as the Lahaina brush fire really rapidly spread west and engulfed the downtown Lahaina area, the Coast Guard began receiving reports of people who had to flee the flames and the smoke all the way down to shore line and ultimately into the water off of Lahaina,” Capt. Aja Kirksey, commander of the Honolulu sector of the Coast Guard, told the news station. “Initial reports of people in the water were around a hundred.”

Early on Thursday morning, Coast Guard officials said 14 people had been rescued from the area.

Fires continue burning on Maui, Hawaii islands

Update 10:40 a.m. EDT Aug. 10: At least three fires continue to burn on the island of Maui, fueled by strong winds brought by the passing of Hurricane Dora.

Officials on the Big Island said three fires sparked Tuesday also continued to burn Thursday, including one near Mauna Kea Resort.

Photos show wildfire damage

Update 10:25 a.m. EDT Aug. 10: Photos show the damage caused by ongoing wildfires that sparked earlier this week in Hawaii.

Officials: At least 36 have died in fires

Update 4:23 a.m. EDT Aug. 10: Early Thursday, officials in Hawaii confirmed the death toll from wildfires in Maui County has risen to 36, the Associated Press reported. The victims of the blazes sparked by hurricane-force winds were discovered during firefighting efforts, state officials said.

According to emergency management officials, “no other details are available at this time.”

— Debbie Lord, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

At least 271 structures damaged, officials say

Update 11:12 p.m. EDT Aug. 9: Officials in Hawaii said at least 271 homes have been damaged or destroyed from the wildfires that have raged through the island of Maui, Hawaii News Now reported.

Civil Air Patrol and Maui Fire Department flyovers conducted Wednesday confirmed the destruction. Lahaina appears to be the hardest hit area, according to Hawaii News Now. Access to the area is still being blocked off.

“It’s horrifying. I’ve flown here 52 years and I’ve never seen anything come close to that,” Richard Olsten, a helicopter pilot for a tour company, told The Associated Press about the destruction. “We had tears in our eyes, the other pilots on board and the mechanics, and me.”

— Bob D’Angelo, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

At least 6 killed in wildfires, officials say

Update 4:37 p.m. EDT Aug. 9: Richard Bissen Jr., the mayor of Lahaina Town, said in a news conference Wednesday that the fires killed at least six people on the island of Maui, according to The Associated Press. Bissen was unable to elaborate on the deaths since he said he had just learned about them at the time of the news conference.

The regional director for Hawaii Life Flight, Speedy Bailey, said, according to the AP, that six patients were also flown from Maui to the island of Oahu on Tuesday evening. Three of them sustained critical burns. Others were taken to other hospitals in Honolulu.

At least 20 patients were taken to a hospital in Maui, according to Bailey, per the AP.

— Jessica Goodman, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

‘Some loss of life is expected’ after wildfires, governor says

Update 2:45 p.m. EDT Aug. 9: Gov. Josh Green said that though “heroic efforts by first responders have prevented many casualties ... some loss of life is expected” after massive wildfires burning in Maui and Hawaii counties prompted evacuations.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the governor said that he has been in touch with officials, including authorities in the White House, as his state continues to grapple with the fires.

“We have suffered a terrible disaster in the form of a wildfire that has spread widely as a result of hurricane-force winds in the region and underlying drought conditions,” he said. “Maui and the Big Island both experienced significant fires. Much of Lāhainā on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced.”

The governor said he is returning to Hawaii after leaving for an out-of-state trip on July 30. He had been scheduled to return next week.

Original report: Acting Gov. Sylvia Luke issued an emergency proclamation Tuesday and activated the National Guard as strong winds brought by Hurricane Dora sparked massive wildfires. The Category 4 storm was spinning about 795 miles south-southwest of Honolulu on Wednesday, with tropical-storm-force winds extending up to 115 miles out from its center, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Meteorologist Jeff Powell told The Associated Press that the fires were a “peripheral result” of Hurricane Dora, as the storm put Hawaii between a low-pressure system associated with the hurricane and high pressure to the north. The dry conditions and high winds “make a dangerous fire situation so that fires that do exist can spread out of control very rapidly,” he said.

Video shared on social media by Hawaii News Now showed some of the devastation.

In Maui, flames were concentrated in the popular tourist destination of West Maui and in an inland, mountainous region, according to the AP. In Lahaina, resident Tiare Lawrence likened the scene to something out of an apocalypse, telling Hawaii News Now, “Everyone I know in Lahaina, their homes have burned down.”

“It’s just so hard,” she said. “I’m currently Upcountry and just knowing I can’t get a hold of any of my family members. I still don’t know where my little brother is. I don’t know where my stepdad is.”

The blazes prompted some people to flee into the ocean, officials in Maui County said. On Tuesday, the Coast Guard rescued 12 people from the waters off Lahaina.

Mahina Martin, Maui County’s chief of communications and public affairs, told CNN on Wednesday morning that fires on the island were “not contained in any fashion.”

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

More than 15,000 people were without power across Hawaii on Wednesday morning, with most outages reported in Maui County, according to outage tracking site Officials with Hawaiian Electric warned people to prepare for extended outages on Tuesday as crews worked to repair poles and downed powerlines. They urged people to stay at least 30 feet away from impacted powerlines.

Authorities expect that they will not be able to determine the full extent of the damage caused by the blazes until well into Wednesday, Hawaii News Now reported.