Climate Health Pharma

Hawaii wildfire death toll rises to 67, fires still burning

A wildfire sweeping across Hawaii’s Maui town of Lahaina has killed at least 67 people, with 12 more fatalities being confirmed, according to the government.

HQ Team

August 12, 2023: A wildfire sweeping across Hawaii’s Maui town of Lahaina has killed at least 67 people, with 12 more fatalities being confirmed, according to the government.

About 36 fatalities were reported on August 9 and an additional 19 the next day, as firefighters continued battling flare-ups in the Pulehu-Kihei, Lahaina, and Upcountry Maui.

“The Lahaina fire is 85 percent contained. The Pulehu/Kihei fire is 80 percent contained. The Upcountry Maui fire is 50 percent contained,” the government stated.

Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Urban Search and Rescue Teams, were deployed to Maui from Arizona and Nevada. 


Police erected barricades around Lahaina town to restrict people from entering the devastated areas, and health officials said burning areas were “highly toxic.”

Inhalation of dust and other airborne particles can be a health hazard, government health officials said. “Hot spots still exist and wearing a mask and gloves is advised.”

The government would not accept clothes as a donation to the affected, according to the statement. Non-perishable food, bottled water, and hygiene items were allowed.

“With additional cellular phone service becoming available in West Maui, people are reminded to text instead of making phone calls so everyone can share the limited resources.”


Shuttles were operating from Kahului Airport and the three American Red Cross emergency shelters at Maui High School, War Memorial Gymnasium, and Hannibal Tavares Community Center to take visitors to West Maui to retrieve belongings so they can depart Maui.

“Only one member of a family is allowed on the shuttles, which are going to hotels in the Ka’anapali and Kapalua/Napili areas.” 

Visitor access is being allowed only to retrieve luggage and identification, and not for staying at hotels.

Those dropped off by the shuttle were picked up an hour later and returned to the locations where they were picked up.

Caused by humans

Every year about 0.5% of Hawaii’s total land area burns— equal to or greater than the proportion burned in any other US state. 

Over 98% of wildfires were caused by humans. 

Human ignitions coupled with an increasing amount of non-native, fire-prone grasses and shrubs and a warming, drying climate have greatly increased the wildfire problem, according to the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization.

In 2016, Maui had one of its worst wildfire seasons. 

With barely any vegetation left in the burned areas to hold down silty soils, a mid-September storm rained down on the burned lands and carried trash and debris through our watersheds and out into the ocean.

2018, 2019

Fires burned more than 30,000 acres of forest and brushland in both 2018 and 2019 – far more than any other year in more than a decade, according to the latest State of Hawaiʻi Data Book.

Thirty-one individual fires in 2019 engulfed 32,124 acres of forest and brushland – a combined area almost as large as the island of Niʻihau.

Hawaii, an island state in western US, has seen a spike in drought intensity since 2016, especially during the summers. 

The US Drought Monitor, a service of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, showed a spike this past summer in areas of Hawai‘i categorized as D2, which is a severe drought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *