A devastating wildfire that tore through the town of Lahaina in Maui has been partially contained, but the extent of the damage has left Hawaii’s governor declaring it a historic disaster. Governor Josh Green compared the magnitude of the destruction to the 1960 tsunami that claimed the lives of 61 people on the Big Island. The death toll from the wildfires has now reached 55, with the number expected to rise as recovery efforts continue. The fire has also caused billions of dollars in damage, according to Governor Green.
As of Thursday, the fire in Lahaina was 80% contained. However, according to Maui County Fire Chief Brad Ventura, none of the three fires burning on the island were fully under control. In response to the fires, President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration. This declaration authorized additional federal aid to reach the affected areas. Local residents will be able to receive rental assistance, FEMA grants, and aid for small businesses.
In an effort to prioritize the crisis, county officials have urged visitors to leave the area. Airlines have also stepped in to provide assistance, with United canceling flights to allow empty planes to transport tourists and other visitors out of Maui. Alaska Airlines has also committed to sending rescue flights. Furthermore, California and Nevada have pledged to send urban search and rescue teams, including specially trained dogs, to aid in the recovery efforts.
The current death toll from the Maui wildfire makes it one of the deadliest wildfires in American history. In 2018, the Camp Fire in California claimed the lives of 85 people and was considered the deadliest wildfire in the United States in the last hundred years. It was also the most destructive fire in California state history, as confirmed by state officials.
The recovery of remains is expected to be a lengthy process, taking days and weeks to complete, according to Governor Green. The exact number of casualties in and around Lahaina remains unknown, as does the number of people still missing. The focus now is on the painstaking task of retrieving and identifying the remains of those who perished in the fire.