The Lahaina Wildfire

by Will Espero

My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences go out to the residents of Lahaina, Maui who lost their homes, businesses, jobs, pets, and loved ones.

The tragic wildfire has scarred Lahaina, and the photos and memory of this horrific event will be forever etched in our minds.

As of this writing, the search and recovery phase continues, and the clean-up phase is yet to begin as the burnt and destroyed materials must be disposed of carefully and cautiously due to their environmental impacts.

Sadly, many people are still missing, and we can only hope and pray for the best outcome.

Lahaina was a town with many Filipino residents, and it looks like many of the victims were of Filipino ancestry.

The death of all residents is horrific, and the loss of lives from the wildfire is something our government officials must evaluate with transparency, honesty, and a sense of urgency.

Accountability and responsibility are key words we often hear in government, and this is the time to properly investigate and find out what went wrong.

Some natural disasters like a hurricane cannot be avoided, but the enormous loss of life begs the question did the government do enough to inform, warn, assist and help her constituents.

From what I read and viewed on the news, it appears some mistakes occurred, and in my opinion, questionable decision-making and the emergency siren system not being utilized will come back to haunt the Bissen administration.

Maui County’s emergency management director, Herman Andaya, recently resigned, and I’m expecting others will feel the backlash and intense scrutiny as decisions were made as the fire spread.

I saw one news report on KITV which appeared to imply poor communication and the lack of current information to county leaders such as Mayor Bissen. His administration will likely be questioned for many perceived failings as issues about police response, fire response, water availability, and public notification are vetted and evaluated. Maui Electric also must answer for its decisions regarding power lines.

Accolades and applause go to the many Maui residents and residents of Hawaii who have responded to help those in need. Local residents have stepped up to provide food, shelter, and the basic necessities of life in the true spirit of Aloha.

The community knows how to take care of itself, and surrounding neighbors, volunteers, and survivors at the frontline are the heroes and saviors. Emergency personnel from all levels of government must also be acknowledged and thanked for their ongoing work and efforts.

I know it’s not an easy job, and the horrors and difficulty of working in devastated areas and disturbing situations cannot be overlooked. Hopefully, everyone involved will have access to mental health professionals, counseling, and treatment considering the trauma all are experiencing in one form or another.

I believe the rebuilding of Lahaina will take at least ten years, and it is imperative that local community input is sought and listened to.

The governor’s plan to build 50,000 housing units statewide will likely be affected as some resources and time will now be diverted to rebuild West Maui. Emergency policies and actions must be thoroughly examined, and the Hawaii attorney general’s remarks about a third-party independent review are welcoming.

It’s not easy being in charge of or involved with emergency response, natural disasters, and first-responder situations. Maui County needs our kokua where possible.

I think I can write that government workers, non-profit organizations, and selfless volunteers are truly appreciated, and residents are grateful for their actions and responses during these trying times.

We must always support our first responders and the difficult tasks they do.

The loss of life from the Lahaina wildfires is gut-wrenching, upsetting, and distressing. We mourn the children and elderly lost. We grieve for the fathers, mothers, cousins, and siblings who died.

We mourn the loss of friends, dreams, and our history as a state. May this wildfire be a once-in-a-lifetime event that never occurs again and one which we learn from as we strive and demand to be better.

WILL ESPERO retired from the Hawaii legislature after serving 19 years in the state House of Representatives and state Senate. He is currently a novelist, poet, and supporter of the arts. Lingering Thoughts provides a glimpse of his perspective on current events and issues. 

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