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Lahaina: A Predictable & Predicted Disaster
Government agencies cannot be trusted to prevent catastrophes. More coming.
I’m only about three weeks into my investigation of the Lahaina Fire and I still have a great deal of work to do before I can draw any final conclusions. However, based on my investigation so far, I feel sufficiently confident to state that the Lahaina Fire was a predictable and predicted disaster. The risk of catastrophic fire sweeping into the largely wooden town was perfectly understood. As the recent civil complaint filed against Hawaiian Electric Industries states:
In the days leading up to August 8, 2023, the National Weather Service issued High Wind and Fire Warnings. It repeatedly warned that these conditions would create the perfect environment for wildfires. The National Weather Service noted in a Tweet Sunday, August 6, 2023, that significant differences in atmospheric pressure between Hurricane Dora and the air north of Hawaii formed a pressure gradient over the islands which, when combined with dry conditions, posed a serious threat of fires as well as damaging winds.
On Monday, August 7, 2023, at 4:42 a.m., the National Weather Service issued red flag warnings due to months of drought, low humidity and high winds. The National Weather Service predicted high gusts of wind up to 60 miles per hour. Maui fire officials also warned in an alert issued August 8, 2023, that “erratic wind, challenging terrain, steep slopes and dropping humidity, the direction and the location of the fire conditions make it difficult to predict path and speed of a wildfire.
These red flag warnings should have put Lahaina on a state of high alert akin to that issued to a civilian population facing possible invasion by a hostile foreign power. With the red flag warnings, the following agencies were put on notice that urgent action needed to be taken to protect Lahaina:
Department of Land and Natural Resources, which controls reservoir water that can be diverted to the parched land above Lahaina during high fire risk conditions. The DLNR actually hindered water from being released to the West Maui Land Co. (which owns much of the land above Lahaina).
Maui Fire Prevention Bureau, whose mission (as stated on its website) is “to abate fire and life-safety hazards before they can cause injury and property damage.” I have seen no evidence that the Bureau did anything to abate the fire hazard to Lahaina.
Maui Emergency Management Agency, whose job is to warn and prepare the civilian population of clear and present dangers. The failure to sound the civil alarm sirens in Lahaina is one of the most conspicuous in the entire disaster.
U.S. Department of Defense, which could have transferred multiple CH-47 Chinook helicopters, equipped with the biggest buckets, from Oahu to Maui on Monday, August 7, to stand by for fire duty.
Hawaii Army National Guard, which could have deployed units to Maui on the morning of Tuesday, August 8, to work with Hawaiian Electric utility personnel to clear downed power lines and trees that obstructed roads in Lahaina and limited paths of escape.
Maui Police Department, which could have worked closely with Hawaiian Electric to ascertain that the downed power lines were no longer energized. All of the confusion about this hazard should have eliminated before the fire swept into town. Maui PD patrol officers actually blocked off escape routes with the purported objective of preventing people from driving and running into energized power lines. This was in spite of Hawaiian Electric’s statement that it de-energized the power lines in and around Lahaina on the morning of August 8, hours before the town caught fire.
U.S. Coast Guard should be equipped with water craft capable of crossing shallow reefs like the one just offshore of Lahaina Front Street. Jet-skis equipped with powerful lights and rescue sleds should have been available to evacuate people who fled into the water off Front Street. With no water craft to evacuate them, around 100 people sat in the water for five hours, inhaling black smoke and getting bombarded by burning, wind-blown debris. Several (including an old acquaintance of mine) did not survive the ordeal.
As I noted in my first Dispatch from Maui, Hurricane Lane, which almost resulted in the incineration of Lahaina in August 2018, was a clear wakeup-up call. FAR MORE investment should have been made in fire prevention and disaster preparation.
The moral of the story, it seems to me, is that our state and federal governments cannot and should not be trusted to prevent disasters. There are capable and brave men and women who work for our government agencies, but these agencies are impaired by terrible leadership by incompetent and corrupt politicians.
As we learned during the Pandemic, politicians seem to thrive on emergencies, as it is during times of emergency that politicians may invoke Emergency Power and allocate billions of federal funds to their friends who are purportedly in the business of providing “countermeasures.”
The plodding, daily grind of taking care of things to prevent disasters is neglected because it requires diligence and discipline and yields little short-term profit.
We the People should be especially wary about the Biden Administration’s confidence that the U.S. proxy war against Russia in Ukraine will not escalate into nuclear war. We know from the Cold War that when tactical and nuclear assets are put on high alert, the risk of a nuclear exchange is greatly heightened.
On Friday, Russia announced its Sarmat ICBMs are on "combat duty.” Sarmat, the longest-range missile in Russia's arsenal, has nicknamed by NATO the "Satan II.” The ICBM’s warheads are believed to be capable of wiping out a country the size of France.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin stated at the time of the announcement:
This truly unique weapon will strengthen the combat potential of our armed forces, reliably ensure Russia’s security from external threats and provide food for thought for those who, in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric, try to threaten our country.
Note that our same state officials who claim Putin is a power-hungry madman also express confidence that he would never use nuclear weapons. From what I’ve seen here on the ground on Maui, I have zero confidence in government’s ability to manage the risk of disaster to our people. No catastrophe would surprise me—though in the case of a hypersonic Sarmat attack, I suppose I won’t have time to be surprised.