Maui Wildfires Analysis

An independent, broad-based review conducted at the request of the Hawaiʻi Attorney General.
Maui Wildfires Analysis conducted by FSRI
  • Overview
  • Updates

The Maui wildfires of August 8–9, 2023 greatly impacted the Lahaina community and the world continues to grieve the deadliest wildland urban interface fire to occur in the last 100 years. This tragedy serves as a sobering reminder that the threat of wildfires and wildfire-initiated urban conflagrations, fueled by climate change and urban encroachment into wildland areas, is a reality that must be addressed with the utmost urgency and diligence. The heroic actions of residents and first responders, fueled by the spirit of unity and cooperation, provide a beacon of light during these devastating fires.

In the aftermath of this incident, questions linger about the adequacy of warning systems, evacuation planning, and the preparedness of communities for such extreme fire events. In August 2023, shortly after the tragic Lahaina fire on Maui, Hawaiʻi Attorney General Anne E. Lopez selected the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), part of UL Research Institutes, for subject matter expertise in fire dynamics and structure-to-structure fire spread. After a site visit and initial consultation with FSRI researchers in Lahaina, Attorney General Lopez engaged FSRI to conduct a comprehensive, independent analysis of the Lahaina fire—separated into three phases—with timing of reports shared with the public. Additional time required will be announced, with the intent of ensuring a thorough review.

Phase One: Fact-Finding About How the Maui Wildfires Incident Unfolded

During the first phase, FSRI collects data from a wide range of sources, uses the best available science on fire dynamics to chart the wildfire progression, and identifies first responder actions to develop a Comprehensive Timeline Report that serves as the foundation of analysis.

Phase Two: Analysis of the Data

During the second phase, FSRI produces an Incident Analysis Report to provide detail on the effectiveness of prevention and alerting efforts, conditions influencing the original fire situation, attempts to stop its rapid progression through Lahaina Town, and evacuation efforts. This phase leverages science and evidence-based analyses with information from FSRI’s fire dynamics research, local subject matter experts, industry standards and best practices, and the collective experiences of FSRI’s team. It also includes a review and analysis of state and county policies and procedures to identify where changes or additions are needed for improved preparedness and response. 

Phase Three: Best Practices for Hawaiʻi to Take Action Toward Prevention

In the final phase, FSRI develops a Forward-Looking Report to answer the question, “How do we prevent this from happening again?” This report includes recommendations, strategies for community risk reduction, and tactical considerations developed by subject matter experts using science and evidence-based analysis.

While the physical scars of this disaster will take time to heal, the emotional toll on the people of Lahaina and the wider Maui community will be felt for generations to come. As the island and the nation mourn the lives lost, the focus must now turn to learning from this tragedy, strengthening emergency response capabilities, and building more resilient communities that can withstand the increasing challenges posed by a changing climate and the ever-present threat of wildfires.

FSRI has been requested by the Attorney General to conduct an independent, broad-based analysis of the incident and will share our evidence-based learnings with the goal of answering stakeholder questions and preventing this type of tragedy from happening in the future. This will be accomplished by working closely with the Lahaina community, local emergency services, and federal, state, and local organizations.

—Steve Kerber

Vice President and FSRI Executive Director

For questions about this project, please contact:

Published: April 9, 2024