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Building damaged from the Hawaii Wildfires

Photo credit: FEMA Photo

Preliminary After-Action Report: 2023 Maui Wildfire

Posted: Feb. 8, 2024

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6 months after the fifth deadliest wildland fire in U.S. history and the worst natural disaster in Hawaii’s history, the Maui Police Department (MPD) released a preliminary after-action report (PDF) detailing its response to the Maui wildfire.

The disaster

On Aug. 8, 2023, wind-driven wildfires on the island of Maui destroyed more than 2,200 structures and caused about $5.5 billion in damages. The most significantly impacted area was the historic district of Lahaina, where more than 100 lives were lost.

The preliminary report

The MPD’s examination deals exclusively with the Maui police response. It does not address the cause and origin of the fires or the response by fire crews. During the wildfire, the MPD supported the fire response, assisting with evacuations, communications and rescue efforts.

The preliminary report makes 32 recommendations to improve Maui’s police response to future natural disaster response efforts, including:

  • Updating equipment and technology.

For example, 2 recommendations are to provide officers with better earpieces to use when high winds make it hard to hear police radios and to equip all patrol cars with breaching kits to remove downed trees or utility poles from roadways.

  • Improvement of communications between emergency personnel and officers.

For example, stationing a high-ranking officer (lieutenant or higher) in the communications center to help relay information to police commanders and giving officers in the field more briefings during recovery efforts.

The final MPD report is expected to be released 6 to 12 months after this preliminary report. Until that report is completed, this preliminary report will be shared with other law enforcement agencies across the nation for their input and so they can also benefit from the recommendations.

Investigations

While several investigations into the Maui wildfires are still ongoing, this preliminary report is the first analysis to be released by any of the island's emergency response agencies.

Other investigations include:

  • Hawaii’s state attorney general has contracted with Underwriters Laboratories’ Fire Safety Research Institute to conduct an independent investigation into how Maui County and state agencies coordinated emergency alerts, evacuations, firefighting, communications and other details of the response to the fires. Phase 1 of this investigation is expected to be completed in March 2024.
  • Maui County fire officials, with local partners and federal investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are investigating the cause and origin of the wildfires. No timetable for completion of this investigation has been set.
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This article is based on content in the
Feb. 8, 2024 InfoGram.

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