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The Maui Wildfires

Were the 2023 Maui Wildfires preventable?
Courtesy of The New York Times

On August 8th, 2023, the disastrous Maui fires began. With over 86% of architectural damage being residential, many people lost their homes. Over 100 people were declared deceased. But, could all of this wreckage have been prevented?An article shared that nearly five years ago, Maui faced a similar situation. In 2018, fires destroyed at least 21 buildings, and 30 vehicles, with a total of 2,800 acres burned. Weather conditions were similar to 2023’s fires, with hot and dry climates and extreme winds. Many of the issues faced by the recent fires had also been present in August of 2018: silent sirens, weak shut-off systems for the power lines, water supply, evacuation routes, and more. 

Later on, in the same article, tour boat captain, David Jung shares his frustrations with the lack of action from 2018-2023. “We were given a bunch of lip service, and instead of preventing another fire, the focus of the meeting was ‘Look, we’re gonna give you guys money and reimburse you,’ Jung said. ‘And we were: ‘No, no, no, no, that is not what we want. You can give us all the money in the world; we just do not want this to happen again.’ But everything we told them was completely, 100% ignored.” 

Even with prior fire warnings, there were still 60,000 wooden power poles that failed to meet the standards for withstanding extreme wind conditions. Wires were left naked for miles, causing a safety hazard. The first wildfire is said to have been started by fallen power lines.

Hawaiian Electric, the power company responsible for serving 95% of residents, has had a lawsuit filed against them by Maui County for not taking action after the 105 mph wind conditions began. According to a news clip from, the fire “would topple power poles, knock down power lines, and ignite vegetation”. However, Hawaiian Electric claims to have shut down power lines 6 hours before the second blaze, blaming Maui County for officially stating the first fire as 100% contained. With the 2023 Maui fires being amongst the deadliest in the past 100 years of US history, many people’s lives were negatively impacted- whether that be the loss of a loved one,  a home, or a business. Could all of this tragedy have been avoided if the proper actions were taken sooner?

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