Shane Treu was repairing the roof of his Lahaina home around 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday August 8 when he heard a power line “pop” and started a fire that reportedly flared into deadly wildfires that killed at least 99 people.
High winds from a hurricane hundreds of miles from Maui had damaged the line, which was “lying on the ground and sparking,” said Treu, who called 911 to report the blaze before filming the incident. fire with his cell phone.
Firefighters arrived about 12 minutes later and by 9 a.m. officials said he had been “100 per cent under control.” But within hours there was an “eruption” that got out of control.
Locals say what followed, including the closure of the Lahaina Bypass – a key route into and out of town – after the eruption turned the area into a “death trap” that may have cost Lives.
As high winds caused the Lahaina wildfire to spread at speeds of up to a mile per minute, fleeing residents were forced to head for Front Street, a narrow road that quickly became congested. Some townspeople weren’t even aware of the deadly conflagration growing around them after the warning sirens failed.
A fire started by a downed power line on the morning of Tuesday August 8 is believed to have escalated into the blaze that destroyed Lahaina. Authorities initially brought the blaze under control, but an outbreak quickly spread
Shane Treu was repairing the roof of his Lahaina home around 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday August 8 when he heard a power line “pop” and a fire reportedly sparking deadly wildfires that killed at least 99 people.
The death toll from the fires currently stands at 99, but that is expected to double as search crews scour what’s left of Lahaina for human remains.
More than 2,000 properties in the century-old city were totally destroyed and 1,300 people were still missing as of Sunday, Hawaii Governor Josh Green said.
Green said he also instructed the state attorney general to conduct a review of warning systems.
Even at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, when high winds whipped up a violent firestorm in Lahaina, resident Mike Cicchino had no idea of the danger growing around him.
His electricity had been out all day, so he decided to go to the local hardware store for a generator. As soon as he left his street, he was confronted with “pandemonium”.
“I see people running and grabbing their babies and screaming and jumping into their cars,” Cicchino said. He turned around, ran into his house and told his wife that they had to leave: “We have to go! We have to get out of here now!
There were no sirens, no one with megaphones, no one to tell anyone what to do: they were alone, with their families and neighbors, to make life or death decisions in a split second on whether to stay or flee, and where to run to – through smoke so thick it blinded them, flames closing in from all directions, cars exploding, power lines knocked down and uprooted trees, the fire whipping the wind and raining
They ran to the car with five dogs and called the police, and a dispatcher said to follow the traffic. Access to the main highway in and out of Lahaina was cut off by barricades erected by authorities after the outbreak.
Mike Cicchino, right, said Front Street had become a “death trap” after the narrow road became the only road out of Lahaina as the town was consumed by wildfires.
This photo provided by Maui County shows fire and smoke filling the sky from wildfires at the intersection of Hokiokio Place and Lahaina Bypass in Maui, Hawaii, Tuesday, August 8, 2023
Roadblocks forced the line of cars onto Front Street.
“We are all headed for a death trap,” thought Cicchino. He told his wife: “We have to jump out of this car, abandon the car and we have to run for our lives.”
They took the dogs out. But it was impossible to know in which direction to run.
“Behind us, straight ahead, next to us, everything was on fire,” Cicchino said. It had been less than 15 minutes since he left his house, and he thought that was the end of it. He called his mother, his brother, his daughter to tell them he loved them.
The black smoke was so thick they could only see the white dogs, not the three black dogs, and they lost them. The propane tanks of a food truck exploded.
He joined groups of people who desperately jumped over a seawall and into the ocean. There were terrifying scenes as dozens of people spent hours in the choppy waters, amid a storm of flames, ash and smoke around them.
Cicchino ran along the seawall calling out the names of his lost dogs. He saw corpses slumped next to the wall. “Help me,” people cried. Old and disabled people could not cross the wall by themselves.
Some were badly burned and Cicchino lifted as many as he could. He ran until he was vomiting from the smoke, his eyes almost swollen and closed.
An aerial view of Lahaina shows the scale of destruction caused by the wildfires in Hawaii
Photographs and footage captured at the height of the blazes reveal how bushfires believed to have been started by downed power lines earlier in the day turned into one of the most devastating wildfires America has ever seen never known.
Lahaina residents have now filed a lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, claiming it is responsible for the fires after it failed to cut power lines despite warnings from the National Weather Service that high winds could bring down those lines and start fires. of rapidly spreading forest.
Hawaiian authorities worked hard on Tuesday to identify 99 confirmed victims of the horrific Maui wildfires amid warnings that the death toll is likely to double as search efforts continue.
Officials are expected to announce the identities of several other victims today.
Currently, only three people have been officially identified and work has been hampered as many remains are badly burned.
Search crews had covered about 25% of the search area, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said Monday. That’s up just three percent on Saturday.
Gov. Josh Green previously said he expected “10 to 20” bodies to be recovered daily in an operation expected to last around ten days. About 1,300 people were still missing as of Sunday, he said.
The fire that swept through centuries-old Lahaina last week destroyed nearly every building in the town of 13,000.
About 86% of the approximately 2,200 ruined buildings were residential, and the value of destroyed property was estimated at over $5 billion.