Six dead, six hospitalized by Maui wildfires; Honolulu’s Hawai‘i Convention Center converting to shelter
August 9, 2023, 11:57 AM HST
Maui Mayor Richard Bissen delivered the solemn news Wednesday morning that at least six people have died amidst the brush fires sweeping across the island the past day and a half.
An additional six people have been hospitalized, some due to burns or smoke inhalation. But officials are not able to assess the full toll on human life and property with some fires still burning.
“Right now the priority is we’re saving lives, preventing human suffering and mitigating great property loss,” said Major General Kenneth S. Hara of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Defense.
More than 2,100 people are currently housed in Maui shelters, according to Bissen, who reported helicopters grounded on Tuesday – due to high winds – are now up in the air to drop water on the uncontained Kula, Lahaina and Kīhei fires.
Hawaiʻi County Mayor Mitch Roth also provided updates on his county’s own brush fires, noting the Lalamilo fire in Waimea is contained, and the Akoni Pule Highway brush fire in North Kohala is approaching containment as well.
“As for as the Mauna Kea resort area fire, that is still being actively fought right now,” Roth said.
Roth adopted a cautious tone, noting dry conditions and rising winds could turn the tide against firefighters.
“It’s very possible for flames to get sent up in places where we think we almost have things put out,” Roth warned.
On O‘ahu, state officials are transforming the Hawai‘i Convention Center in Honolulu into a shelter for people fleeing the neighbor islands’ brush fires.
City buses will transport individuals from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to the convention center, although details were still being finalized.
Hara urged people to consult the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency website, Ready.Hawaii.gov, for up-to-date information.
Gov. Josh Green is cutting an out-of-state trip short in response to the brush fires, and is due back in Hawai‘i by midnight Wednesday.
Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, serving as Acting Governor in Green’s absence, spoke with “sadness and heartache” alongside Bissen, Roth, Hara and others.
She noted Hurricane Dora – which is passing to the south of the Hawaiian archipelago – has nonetheless exacerbated the Maui and Big Island brush fires.
“When we are preparing for a hurricane, we expect rain, sometimes we expect floods,” she said. “We never anticipated in this state that a hurricane, which did not make impact on our islands, would cause this type of wildfire.”