Maui fires live updates: Lahaina search ongoing with hundreds still missing

4 of Maui’s wildfire dead have been identified; DNA taken from relatives

Four of the sets of remains found after Maui’s wildfires have been identified, Maui County said in an update this morning Hawaii time.

The identities of the four will be released once their families are notified, the county said.

Investigators have obtained DNA profiles of 13 more people, and 41 DNA samples have been obtained from family members of people who are unaccounted for, the county said.

Relatives who wish to provide DNA to help in the search can go to a Family Assistance Center, the county said.

Franklin Trejos was among those killed. He died sheltering a golden retriever, longtime friends said. “Just the friendliest guy you would ever meet,” Shannon Weber-Bogar recalled.

Maui police: Hope is to search 85% of burned area by weekend

More areas of Maui’s deadly wildfire were searched today, with 32% of the disaster zone having been covered, Maui County said in an update.

Previously, 25% had been searched. Dogs are being used to locate remains in and around Lahaina, the West Maui town that burned when a wind-whipped fire swept in last week.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said at a news conference yesterday that it is hoped that 85% to 90% can be searched by the weekend.

In some cases, dogs have helped find remains after initial searches have been done and searchers retraced where they had been, Pelletier said.

“We don’t want to miss anything,” Pelletier said.

Ninety-nine deaths have been confirmed. The number could rise as more searches are done.

Biden says he and first lady will go to Hawaii as soon as they can

Hawaii residents displaced by fire, forced into shelters

The Maui wildfires have forced evacuees to spend 4,000 stays in shelters so far during the ongoing disaster, officials said Tuesday.

Those residents have been staying at 11 shelters, as more than 270 volunteers have jumped into action, according to the Red Cross of Hawaii.

“Our work is just beginning,” the relief organization said. “We’re working with our partners to get help to where it is needed as quickly as possible.”

Pilot vacationing on Maui volunteered to fly plane as fires raged, helping 330 people get off island

Capt. Vince Eckelkamp in the cockpit on the flight from Maui to San Francisco on Aug. 9, 2023.
Capt. Vince Eckelkamp in the cockpit on the flight from Maui to San Francisco on Aug. 9, 2023.Courtesy Capt. Vince Eckelkamp

A United Airlines pilot vacationing on Maui volunteered to fly a plane off the wildfire-engulfed island, helping 330 people get home safely. 

Capt. Vince Eckelkamp, of Colorado, told NBC News today that he was scheduled to fly from Maui to Denver last Tuesday after a six-day vacation with his wife and daughter. 

Around 4 a.m. that morning, the power in his hotel went out due to gusty winds that downed power lines. The family packed their bags in the dark and planned to head to Kahului Airport early, but soon found there was no cell service available. 

To get to the airport, Eckelkamp’s family drove through the historic town of Lahaina — only a few hours before it turned into an inferno.

Read the full story here.

Disasters like Maui fire open door to charity scammers and fraud, officials say

Federal prosecutors warned the public today to be on the lookout for heartless scammers who won’t “hesitate to take advantage of the challenging times to commit fraud and other crimes.”

Telltale signs of a scam will include requests for personal information, such as bank account numbers and Social Security numbers, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Hawaii said in a statement.

“As the devastation of our communities on Maui and Hawaii Island continues to unfold, local and national organizations have created ways for volunteers to assist as well as to provide donations of food, money and other resources,” prosecutors said.

“While such efforts provide critical aid, we know that during periods of tremendous need like this, criminals do not hesitate to take advantage of the challenging times to commit fraud and other crimes,” the statement continued.

Maui wildfire becomes latest fodder for disaster conspiracy theorists

As Maui reckons with the deadliest wildfire in recent U.S. history, it is also dealing with a digital nightmare that has become common around major news stories: social media-fueled conspiracy theories. 

Fires have ravaged and destroyed parts of West Maui, hitting the historic community of Lahania particularly hard. At least 99 people are dead and the economic cost of the fires could balloon to $7 billion. 

It’s still unclear what caused the fires, but the severity of the destruction in West Maui has been attributed in part to a confluence of high winds from Hurricane Dora in the Pacific and drought in the region. Wildfires have been a known risk in the area for years.

That hasn’t stopped would-be social media sleuths from attempting to uncover a nonexistent plot to start the fires. 

One of the most prevalent and outlandish theories is that the fires were caused by some kind of secret “energy weapon,” a relatively common conspiracy trope that has been repurposed in recent years around a variety of events, including previous wildfires. Some have misrepresented an image of a SpaceX rocket launch as evidence that some kind of weapon used a beam to cause an explosion on the island. 

Read the full story here.

Biden says he spoke with Gov. Green and FEMA officials, promises ‘every asset’ in response to fire

President Joe Biden, speaking Tuesday at an event in Wisconsin, promised “every asset” from the federal government in response to the Hawaii wildfires.

“They’ve claimed the lives of 99 people so far,” Biden said. “They haven’t cleaned things up yet. The deadliest wildfire more than 100 years, whole city destroyed. Generations of native Hawaiian history turned into ruin.”

“And think about this, all that area. They gotta plow up,” he continued. “They can’t do it now because you don’t know how many bodies, you don’t know what’s left. Imagine being a mom or dad, wondering where your child is. Imagine being a husband or wife or mother, father. It’s really tough stuff.”

Biden said he’s spoken with Gov. Josh Green multiple times and almost 500 federal personnel have been deployed to the state. He said that he and first lady Jill Biden will travel to Hawaii as soon as possible, but don’t want to disrupt rescue and recovery efforts.

“In the meantime, you always hear this phrase and I’ve done so many disasters in my career. It’s almost hollow … ‘our thoughts and prayers with the people’ … not just our prayers, every asset, every asset they need will be there for them. And we will be there as long as it takes, as long as it takes.”

GOP slams Biden for going 4 days without talking about Maui fires

WASHINGTON — It’s the sort of split-screen moment that no White House relishes.

While Maui counted its dead Sunday, President Joe Biden sat on the beach in Delaware, rode his bicycle and said little about the deadliest wildfire to hit the U.S. in a century.

“We’re looking at it,” he said, pedaling past reporters who shouted at him as he whizzed by.

Biden first delivered remarks about the catastrophic fires on Thursday. The next day, his son became the subject of a federal special counsel investigation. And since then, Biden has said virtually nothing to the press — not about Hunter Biden, the fires or anything else.

Four days of silence haven’t gone unnoticed. Yesterday reporters pressed White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre about why he has not spoken out more; Republicans have piled on criticism that the president was failing to address the devastation; and today the conservative media juxtaposed pictures of Biden at the beach with footage of the fires.

Read the full story here.

Paris Hilton was vacationing on Maui when uncle’s restaurant burned down

Paris Hilton drew criticism when photos obtained by the Daily Mail showed the star vacationing on Maui amid the wildfire catastrophe. 

A source close to Paris Hilton told NBC News that she had been on the island for a planned family trip, and Maui is like a second home for her. 

“Her uncle’s restaurant in Lahaina burned down, so they decided to shorten their trip and go to see their family and help where they could,” the source said. “When they arrived, they gathered supplies, donated to the local shelters and people in need, and made significant contributions.”

3,000 animals estimated to be displaced by wildfires

An estimated 3,000 animals are believed to have been displaced by the Maui wildfires, many of them likely needing “intense medical care,” the Maui Humane Society said Tuesday.

The organization shared a photo of a cat found by rescuers; they are calling it Alani, which means the color orange in Hawaiian. Based off his scorched coat, he “made his best efforts escaping the fires.” 

“All of his paw pads burned, his mouth swollen and painful. He was dehydrated and lifeless. He had no microchip or other signs of ownership,” the society wrote on Facebook. For now, Alani is on the mend getting daily foot soaks to treat his paws and medications.

“If Alani’s owners are out there, we want them to know that he is safe and recovering,” the organization wrote. “Maui Humane Society is dedicated to reunifying pets with their owners.”

68-year-old Lahaina resident died in car trying to protect golden retriever

Shannon Weber-Bogar told NBC News her friend Franklin Trejos died shielding their 3-year-old golden retriever, Sam, in the wildfires that consumed Lahaina on Aug. 8.

Her husband, Geoff Bogar, found the bodies of Trejos and Sam in a car one day after the blaze tore through their neighborhood.  

Geoff Bogar told The Associated Press that he and Trejos tried to save the Bogars’ house and help people in the neighborhood, but fled in their own cars when the flames drew near. 

Franklin Trejos died shielding his 3-year-old golden retriever Sam.
Franklin Trejos died shielding his 3-year-old golden retriever Sam.Courtesy Shannon Weber-Bogar

Geoff Bogar said his car wouldn’t start and he broke through a window and crawled on the ground until a police patrol found him and he was taken to a hospital. When he returned the next day, he found the bones of 68-year-old Trejos, his friend of 35 years. 

Trejos, a native of Costa Rica, had lived for years with Bogar and his wife, helping her with her seizures when her husband couldn’t. He filled their lives with love and laughter, The Associated Press reported. 

Family of 4 died trying to escape wildfire

Faaso and Malui Fonua Tone, Salote Takafua, and her son, Tony Takafua died attempting to escape the wildfires that tore through Hawaii last week.

Their remains were found Thursday in a burned car near their home.

“The magnitude of our grief is indescribable,” read a statement from family members.

Lylas Kanemoto, who knew the Tone family, confirmed the devastating news Sunday.

“At least we have closure for them, but the loss and heartbreak is unbearable for many. We as a community has to just embrace each other and support our families, friends, and our community to our best of our abilities,” Kanemoto told The Associated Press by text message on Sunday.

A week into the disaster, airlines have evacuated over 32,000 from Maui

Since wildfires hit Hawaii last week, American Airlines operated 21 flights from Kahului Airport on Maui to the continental U.S., evacuating more than 4,200 people from the island, the airline said in an update Monday

American also worked with nonprofits to send in shipments of supplies such as nonperishable food, baby formula and diapers to the island. 

From Aug. 8 to Sunday, United Airlines transported more than 11,000 people off Maui, and flew in responders with the American Red Cross, Air Link and World Central Kitchen, the airline said in a statement.

Hawaii Airlines said in the first 72 hours of the disaster, hundreds of flights were operated and carried more than 17,000 people out of Kahului Airport.

Within the first week, more than 54,000 pounds of essential supplies were also transported to Maui including blood, medical supplies, communications equipment and animal kennels, according to the airline.

Chemicals released into air and water could pose long-term risks

The fires that have been burning in Maui since Tuesday could pose long-term health risks to residents due to chemical compounds contaminating the air, water and wreckage, authorities and experts have warned.

The Hawaii State Health Department cautioned Friday that ash and dust from burned buildings might carry toxic chemicals like asbestos and lead. Many destroyed buildings in Lahaina — the hardest-hit community — may have contained these chemicals because they were built before lead and asbestos were phased out of construction in the 1970s.

“Things like lead and asbestos are sort of top of the list. Those are things that are in paint, in buildings, and then do not really get destroyed with burning, so they’re now in the ash and the dust,” said Diana Felton, Hawaii’s state toxicologist.

Felton said that there is some concern that people in Lahaina might inhale lead and asbestos particles in the air but that the bigger worry is that residents might unintentionally ingest the chemicals if they get on clothes or hands.

Read the full story here.

What FEMA’s doing on the ground

Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesperson John Mills shared an update on what the agency is doing on Maui: providing money to survivors for critical needs, temporary rental assistance, getting people out of shelters and into hotels and aiding in search and rescue efforts. 

“This is a very somber and respectful process that we’re going through at the same time working across multiple lines of effort in mass care, emergency services, critical infrastructure and housing to figure out the next steps and support Maui County and support the state,” Mills said on NBC’s “TODAY” show Tuesday morning. 

Power and cell service is slowly being restored, Mills said, but there’s still a ways to go when it comes to searching charred buildings for victims.

Still, there are glimmers of hope from the vibrant community on the island. “Neighbors are really doing an amazing job. So many people are taking survivors into their homes and giving them a temporary place to live,” he said. 

Nearly 500 people affected by fires have been moved into hotels

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said nearly 500 people “impacted from the fires” are now being housed in hotels.

“We’re committed to working with our hotel and vacation rental industries to prioritize the temporary housing needs of our people,” Green tweeted Monday evening. “We mahalo them for their extraordinary efforts.”

He shared a video of a Lahaina native named Jacob, who lost his home in the fire and works at the Royal Lahaina Resort and is being temporarily housed and fed at the hotel with his immediate family. 

“My family we were able to make it here, I’ve accounted for everybody. My children, they are all good. We do have a special needs child, muscle dystrophy along with Down syndrome but due to the outreach and all the help and support we’ve been getting from clinics from his therapy sessions, all that, he’s doing just fine,” Jacob said in the clip. “We’re just so grateful for everything everyone has done and please continue to support,” he added.

Death toll remains at 99, officials say

The death toll of the Maui wildfire disaster remained at 99 as of late Monday evening local time, officials said.

On the afternoon of August 14, two additional refrigerated containers arrived for a total of five containers as local authorities and FBI Evidence Response Team (ERT) agents were on site. The death toll in Hawaii's wildfires rose to 99 and could double over the next 10 days, the state's governor said August 14, as emergency personnel painstakingly scoured the incinerated landscape for more human remains.
An FBI agent watches as refrigerated storage containers arrive in Wailuku, Hawaii on Monday.Patrick T. Fallon / AFP – Getty Images

At least three people killed in the wildfires had so far been identified as of 10 p.m. local time (4 a.m. ET Tuesday) Maui County officials said in an online update.

“Their names will be released after their families are notified,” the county said.

Lahaina fire still around 85% contained, officials say

The fire in Lahaina was around 85 percent contained as of late Monday evening local time, officials said.

In an update on the wildfire disaster, Maui County said that as of 10 p.m. local time on Monday (4 a.m. ET on Tuesday) the fire had been at least 85 percent contained.

Maui Wildfires - Lahania, HI
Fire damage is seen on Sunday in Lahaina, Hawaii. Matt McClain / The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Multiple fire crews are assigned to monitor and address any flareups,” the county said, adding: “There are no active threats at this time.”

The county noted that even when a fire is 100 percent contained, that does not mean it has been extinguished. “It means that firefighters have the blaze fully surrounded by a perimeter, inside which it can still burn. A fire is declared ‘extinguished’ when fire personnel believe there is nothing left burning.”

Former Warriors coach Don Nelson opens Hawaii homes to victims

Former Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson is reportedly opening his short-term rental homes in Maui to those impacted by the deadly wildfires.

“We’re doing the best we can, but we only have space for about 24 people,” Nelson told the San Francisco Chronicle in a phone interview Monday. “There are thousands of people homeless right now. It’s overwhelming.”

Don Nelson in 2012
Former head coach of the Golden State Warriors Don Nelson.Rocky Widner / NBAE via Getty Images file

Nelson started investing in local real estate in Maui back in 2011 shortly after settling into West Maui full-time, according to the outlet. Now, he said he is leasing his properties for free to those who have lost their homes in the wildfire.

“I’m not going anywhere,” Nelson said. “This is home. Right now, it needs all our help.”

Japan ready to ‘provide necessary assistance’ if U.S. requests it

The Japanese government is ready to “provide necessary assistance” in response to the wildfires if the U.S. requests it, a spokesperson said Tuesday.

Japan has so far received reports of homes owned by Japanese nationals being damaged by the wildfires in Maui, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said in a daily news briefing. He said the government had not received any news of fatalities or injuries among Japanese nationals.

“Since the outbreak of the wildfire, we have been in close communication with the U.S. government as well as the Hawaiian state government, and we have informed them of our readiness to provide necessary assistance should they request it,” he said.

Economic cost could be $7 billion, analysis finds

The economic cost to Maui from the wildfires could come up to $7 billion, Moody’s Analytics said Monday.

“Losses may be more than enough to suggest a brief but severe local recession,” the financial services company said.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green also said that the damage was estimated to be close to $6 billion.

Last week's inferno on the island of Maui is already the deadliest US wildfire in a century, with only a quarter of the ruins of the devastated town of Lahaina searched for victims so far.
The charred remains of a neighborhood in Lahaina, western Maui on Monday.Yuki Iwamura / AFP – Getty Images

He said “there has been a great deal of water conflict on Maui for many years” and that Maui has faced challenges getting enough water to rural areas and to houses.

“We’re in the process of a comprehensive review that I’ve asked our attorney general to do, and there will be multiple reviews at every level to find out what the level of preparedness was,” Green said.

Search continues for the missing as death toll rises

The search for those missing in the Maui wildfires will continue on Tuesday after the death toll rose to nearly 100 people.

At least 99 people were confirmed to have died in the wildfires, officials said Monday. Officials were expected to begin identifying those killed on Tuesday, provided that their families have been notified of their deaths.

Searchers and cadaver dogs had so far covered around a quarter of the town of Lahaina as of Monday, officials said. They will continue their search in what Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said was likely to be the largest natural disaster in the state’s history.

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