Posted on 8/18/2023

The 2023 Maui Wildfires in Lahaina

On August 8th, wildfires ravaged our beautiful island of Maui. Two of the fires caused irreversible damage.

The worst of the two destroyed the historic town of Lahaina, the former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.

It’s a devastation unlike any seen in living memory on the Hawaiian islands, with over 2,000 structures destroyed and the tragic death of at least 111 people.

Many destroyed structures were residential homes, leaving a large population displaced.

In the aftermath of the fire, thousands of people were unaccounted for, and (as of August 18th) over 1,000 people are still missing.

A Historical and Cultural Hub

Lahaina was well-known for its iconic Front Street, a seafront street with historic buildings, scenic views, great restaurants, and many shopping options.

Much more than a “tourist town,” Lahaina was the royal capital from 1820 to 1845. It became a major whaling harbor and a global trading hub.

Royalty and chiefs were educated at Lahainaluna high school, and kings and queens were buried at Waiola Church. King Kamehameha III had his royal residence in Lahaina and unified Hawaii under a single kingdom.

It is a town rich with history, unable to be replicated anywhere else.

The cultural center with historical Hawaiian artifacts like feather capes implements, and documents are among the many things lost. The Waiola church was also damaged in the flames.

Wildfire Relief Efforts

The strength of the Hawaiian people has been evident in the aftermath of the fire.

Within hours of the tragedy, locals gathered supplies, sending water, food, clothing, and needed goods to survivors on the West side.

Shelters were created and run entirely by volunteers. The people mobilized quickly and efficiently to take care of their own.

The road to recovery will be long, and the true scale of the loss isn’t fully known yet. If there is any community that can navigate such a profound tragedy with resilience, grace, love, and care for one another, it is this one.

Should Tourists come to Maui?

In the face of this tragedy, many people planning on visiting Maui are faced with the question, “Should we still come?”

There have been mixed messages from authorities and locals alike, and knowing the right answer is complicated.

While many on Maui have expressed a desire to move the county away from the tourism industry, at this point in time, 51% of jobs on the island fall in the tourism sector.

An economic crisis is the last thing the island needs.

Ultimately, the only part of Maui that is closed to tourism is West Maui. At this time, the rest of the island is safe and open.

As long as visitors are not hampering relief efforts, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to come.

Whether you come to Maui in the next few months or wait until next year, this loss will shape the community here.

Please remember to be respectful and gentle when on the island. Please stay away from West Maui until it is opened to the public.

The beaches and businesses on the north and south side are unaffected, but the island is grieving. Your sensitivity and kindness will go a long way.

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