Hawai’i attorney general releases comprehensive report on the Lahaina fire

April 18, 2024

The initial findings from the Lahaina fire investigation released

On April 17, 2024, Hawai’i Attorney General Anne Lopez unveiled the first phase of an independent report detailing the events and responses surrounding the catastrophic Lahaina fire of August 8-9, 2023.

The report, compiled by the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), chronologically outlines the occurrences before, during, and after the fire, providing a foundational understanding of the disaster.

The Fire Safety Research Institute, a part of UL Research Institutes, was tasked with this analysis due to its expertise in fire dynamics and structure-to-structure fire spread.

Their examination began with an on-site visit and extensive data collection, including radio communications, video footage, emergency logs, and personal accounts.

The result is a timeline detailing the preparedness efforts, the fire’s progression, evacuation activities, and the emergency responses that followed.

Detailed timeline of the Lahaina fire

The comprehensive timeline starts at 14:55 (2:55 p.m. HST) on August 8, 2023, documenting the fire’s impact on infrastructure, response efforts, and community safety measures up to 08:30 (8:30 a.m.) the following day.

This includes data from three other fires on Maui to provide additional context.

The analysis draws on a variety of sources, including text and phone logs, emails, social media posts, and firsthand witness accounts, to depict the fire’s rapid transformation from a grassland blaze into a devastating urban conflagration.

Steve Kerber, Executive Director and Vice President of FSRI, emphasized the report’s role in shaping future safety measures: “FSRI’s goal was to thoroughly document the facts around this tragic event to allow for subsequent analysis and lessons learned.

“While the phase one report does not analyze causation, it lays the critical foundation for examining the policies, practices, preparedness, and response that will ultimately improve public safety and resilience against similar fire disasters.”

Upcoming phases of the fire investigation

The phase one report sets the stage for a more detailed analysis in phase two, which will delve into the conditions that influenced the fire’s spread, the effectiveness of evacuation efforts, and the fire suppression tactics employed.

This phase will leverage advanced fire dynamics research and incorporate insights from local experts and international best practices.

Phase three will aim to address preventative measures, assessing the capabilities of the Maui County Fire Department, evaluating community risks, and proposing enhancements to fire and building codes to mitigate future disasters.

FSJA Comment

The Lahaina fire report provides a sobering reminder of the challenges faced by emergency responders and the devastating effects of rapid urban fire spread.

This detailed timeline not only helps understand the sequence of events but also serves as a crucial tool for improving disaster response and preparedness strategies.

By focusing on data-driven analysis and factual documentation, FSRI sets a precedent for handling fire disasters that could significantly influence fire safety standards and community planning.

As we look forward to the insights from the next phases of this analysis, the ultimate goal remains clear: enhancing resilience and safety for communities prone to such catastrophic events.

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