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Hawaii releases detailed timeline of deadly wildfire that razed Lahaina

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LA Post: Hawaii releases detailed timeline of deadly wildfire that razed Lahaina
April 17, 2024
Jonathan Allen - Reuters

By Jonathan Allen

(Reuters) - A fire engine arrived within five minutes of the first reports of a wildfire last August on the edge of Lahaina, the historic Hawaiian resort town, according to the most detailed timeline yet of the disaster, released on Wednesday by the Hawaii attorney general.

The first emergency calls came in at 2:55 p.m. on Aug. 8, the report said. Firefighters could see the smoke at 2:57 p.m.; arrived at the large, fast-growing patch of fire at 3:00 p.m.; and had been joined by police officers who confirmed the first building to catch fire at 3:05 p.m., a storage shed.

The first responders were no match for the embers whipped downslope by winds from a passing hurricane, and the fires quickly engulfed and destroyed most of Lahaina, the former capital of the Hawaiian kingdom, killing 101 people, according to the official tally.

Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez called the report 'phase one' of the findings by the Maryland-based Fire Safety Research Institute.

Her office will release two more reports at later dates, the first described as an analysis of how Maui's fire-prevention systems worked before and during the Lahaina fire, and the second to include recommendations on preventing similar disasters in the future.

"We will review what worked and what did not work and make improvements to prevent future disasters of this magnitude," Lopez said in a statement.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is conducting a separate investigation into the origin and causes of the fire. It has not said when it will release its findings.

The attorney general's report shows that at 3:28 p.m., a second fire truck reported another building had ignited. Minutes later, multiple vehicles and buildings were ablaze.

The report notes that the structures were generally close together, and the fire spread between buildings via trees, fences, sheds and propane tanks, as well as by windborne embers.

About 90 minutes after the first calls came in, the fire had reached the commercial center of Front Street and the ocean, into which many desperate residents jumped after failing to make progress fleeing along one of the very few roads out of town.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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