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U.S. Coast Guard Continues to Assist Maui Fire Response

A U.S. Coast Guard rescue boat stands by to assist as fires burn on the shores of Lahaina, August 9 (USCG)
A U.S. Coast Guard rescue boat stands by to assist as fires burn on the shores of Lahaina, August 9 (USCG)

Published Aug 10, 2023 6:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Navy continued their efforts to assist with evacuations and emergency response operations on Maui, where a runaway wildfire has devastated the town of Lahaina. 

Coast Guard first responders pulled 17 people from the water during the fire overnight Tuesday, including two children, and rescued another 40 from the shoreline. The intense fire in Lahaina burned to the waterfront, prompting some citizens to jump into the harbor in an attempt to escape the flames. 

The agency's current response efforts include personnel from Station Maui and 14th District, with air coverage from Air Station Barbers Point MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter aircrews. A 45-foot response boat crew from Station Maui remains on scene, along with the Coast Guard Cutters Kimball and Joseph Gerczak. Two Maritime Safety and Security Team (maritime counter-terrorism) crews, an ROV, and Coast Guard divers were transported to Maui via C-130 to augment the forces on the ground

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Juniper loads response boats to deliver to Maui for relief efforts, August 10 (USCG)

Additionally, the U.S. Navy's Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron 37 sent MH-60R Seahawk helicopters to assist the U.S. Coast Guard in search and rescue operations.

A safety zone and flight restrictions are in effect near Lahaina Harbor and surrounding area, and the Coast Guard urges residents to pay attention to safety warnings. Some buildings in the town continued to smolder as late as Wednesday, and the area is without power or utilities. 

At least 53 people were killed in the conflagration, making it the second-deadliest American wildfire in a century. The blaze whipped into town, propelled by powerful winds, and residents have reported that they had little to no warning.  

Hawaii Governor Josh Green has warned that the casualty numbers will likely rise, and he told reporters that "the full extent of the destruction of Lahaina will shock you." Some local citizens have suggested that the count of dead and missing could be far higher than reported so far. An informal local list of missing persons has grown to about 2,100 entries, including 1,100 people listed as "not found." 

“We don’t know how many people we have dead. When this is all said and done — we just don’t know,” Chief John Pelletier of the Maui County Police Department told the New York Times.