Maui wildfires update: 1 more victim officially identified; death toll stands at 111
This story was updated at 11:14 p.m. Aug. 17.
Update at 5:23 p.m. Aug. 17: One more victim of the deadly Maui wildfires has been officially identified.
The Maui Police Department confirmed Thursday afternoon that 71-year-old Donna Gomes of Lāhainā is the latest victim to be named.
She joins 71-year-old Melva Benjamin, 90-year-old Virginia Dofa, 79-year-old Alfredo Galinato, 74-year-old Robert Dyckman and 79-year-old Buddy Jantoc, also all of Lāhainā, as the first six victims to be officially identified.
Maui police and assisting partners have been working tirelessly to ensure proper protocols are followed while notifying the families of the victims involved. Their priority is to handle the situation with the utmost sensitivity and respect for those who are grieving.
The total death toll in the devastating wildfires remains at 111. The search continues.
The Maui Police Department also said four additional victims have been identified, but authorities are waiting until after their next of kin have been notified to release their names.
“We will continue to work closely with the families to ensure that they are updated and supported throughout this process,” the Police Department said in a press release. “We extend our gratitude to the community for their support and understanding during this challenging time.”
As of the last update from Maui County at about 9:30 p.m. Thursday, about 58% of the area had been searched. The Lahaina Fire was 90% contained.
Hawaiian Electric crews also continued to work on restoring power to 1,900 customers in West Maui and 60 in the Upcountry.
Original story: The death toll in the devastating Maui wildfires remains at 111 in the most recent update from Maui County on Thursday afternoon. The Maui Police Department said 40% of the area has been searched.
A total of five victims have been officially identified by authorities. The names of three victims were released Aug. 16: 71-year-old Melva Benjamin, 90-year-old Virginia Dofa and 79-year-old Alfredo Galinato, all of Lāhainā. Two others were identified Aug. 15 as Lāhainā residents 74-year-old Robert Dyckman and 79-year-old Buddy Jantoc.
As of Wednesday morning, police reported that 35 autopsies were completed and seven were identified, five by fingerprints and two by DNA. Sixteen DNA profiles have been obtained from human remains, and 52 samples have been collected from family members.
The Lāhainā Fire, initially reported Aug. 8, is 89% contained and has burned an estimated 2,170 acres. There are no active threats at this time. The fire has been described as the deadliest wildfire in the United States in the past century.
The Olinda Fire and Kula Fire, both also first reported Aug. 8, are now 85% and 80% contained, respectively. The Olinda blaze has burned an estimated 1,081 acres, with the Kula wildfire burning 202 acres. There are no active threats from either fire at this time.
County fire investigators concluded that the Kula and Olinda fires have distinct origins. Data for those fires will be reported separately moving forward. Hot spots in gulches, forests and other hard to reach places, along with land divisions and fences, make establishment of complete control lines difficult in the Upcountry fires.
As mapping is refined in coming days, estimated fire acreage could be adjusted. On Wednesday, Chinook helicopters dropped water on the perimeter of the active fires as preventative measures.
The Pūlehu/Kīhei Fire, also initially reported Aug. 8, remains 100% contained.
When a fire is 100% contained, it does not mean it has been extinguished. It signifies that firefighters have the blaze fully surrounded. A fire is declared extinguished when fire personnel think there is nothing left burning.
According to the National Weather Service, fairly dry and stable conditions are expected across the islands through Friday. Breezy trade winds Thursday are forecast to remain into tonight, then weaken Friday and through the weekend.
Rain associated with the remnants of former tropical cyclone Fernanda is forecast to approach the state starting late Sunday and spread westward across the islands Monday and Tuesday. The highest rainfall amounts are forecast Monday afternoon through Tuesday morning along windward and mountain slopes of Maui.
Hawaiian Electric reported Aug. 16 that power has been restored to more than 80% of Maui customers who have been without electricity since the wildfire disaster. Power has been restored to the Lāhainā Civic Center and other areas.
Work continues on infrastructure to support restoration in the West Maui area, where facilities that provide essential needs such as groceries and supplies are located.
About 2,000 customers in West Maui remain without electricity. In the Upcountry, crews continue to respond to pocket outages for an estimated 60 customers. There are more than 400 Hawaiian Electric employees and contractors from Maui, O’ahu, the Big Island, Moloka’i and Lana’i working to safely bring power back to the affected Maui communities.
All five emergency shelters have internet connection.
Maui residents affected by the wildfires can apply for federal disaster assistance at a new joint Disaster Recovery Center that operates daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the University of Hawai‘i Maui College. People can speak to Federal Emergency Management Agency specialists, get help registering for disaster assistance, connect with volunteer organizations and find access to federal and state resources.
Maui County’s online centralized hub to respond to the impacts of the Lāhainā and Kula wildfire disaster, Maui Nui Strong, offers information about how to donate, volunteer, offer services and look for support. It is administered through the County Office of Economic Development and will be used to connect people to resources and services.
Text, not talk, continues to be the best form of communication for locations with connectivity.
The Family Assistance Center, for those seeking information about loved ones and those unaccounted for, is moving from its current location at the Kahului Community Center to the Hyatt Regency’s Monarchy Ballroom at 200 Nohea Kai Drive in Kaʻanapali, effective Friday at 10 a.m.
The new location will provide a “one-stop shop” of resources and services for those who have been affected by the wildfires. Families and individuals will have the opportunity to get assistance from center staff in assessing their needs and connecting them with on-site services as well as other resources within the community.