The Maui Land Grab Proceeds in Plain Sight

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“This is a Maui update, and there’s a bill being introduced today that addresses the following:

  • First is they wanna establish an authority to develop plans to redevelop areas affected by disaster. The people of Lahaina are adamantly opposed to this because it brings people that are not from Lahaina into Lahaina, in positions to make decisions for how they move forward.
  • Second is the bill establishes an income tax credit to incentivize the voluntary relinquishment of property located in areas affected by disaster. That one speaks for itself.
  • Third and most alarming is this bill directs the attorney general to commence imminent domain proceedings.”

It was a perfect storm that confronted first responders when wildfires broke out on the Hawaiian island of Maui in August, investigators have determined.

“Severe weather” fed the flames, investigators say, and many of the already limited roads became impassable. An already understaffed police force was left to grapple with communications and equipment problems that hadn’t previously been anticipated, a preliminary after-action investigation has found.

Those are some of the findings of the probe, released Monday by the Maui Police Department. It’s the first analysis performed by any of the island’s emergency response agencies since wildfires destroyed the historic Lahaina district of the island on Aug. 8, 2023, ultimately, according to the report, killing 100 people, burning more than 6,600 acres, and leaving thousands of homes and other structures in ruins. The wind-fed blaze stands as what state officials said was the worst natural disaster in Hawaii’s history and America’s deadliest wildfire in over a century, the fifth deadliest in U.S. history.

The 98-page document paints a picture of chaos on Maui as winds from a Pacific hurricane fueled a series of fires that started throughout Aug. 8 in four different locations on the 727-square-mile island. As one blaze was contained, another seemed to start. Then finally, with the ferocity of the gales of Hawaiian legend, the winds fueled a fire in Lahaina that made it impossible to see, collapsed communications systems, downed power lines and rendered evacuation routes nearly useless, according to the report.

It wasn’t just the thick smoke and rapidly spreading flames, investigators found, that made Maui officers’ jobs — and citizens’ survival — harder: A toxic haze of false information lingered in the chaos, and, the report said, fed confusion.

MAUI WILDFIRES OF AUGUST 8, 2023 MAUI POLICE DEPARTMENT PRELIMINARY AFTER-ACTION REPORT