Maui, HI, Fire Officials Defend Response to Deadly Wildfire as After-Action Report Released

April 16, 2024
Fully stocked relief apparatus, additional firefighters and the creation of evacuation plan are among suggestions in the AAR of the fire that claimed 100 lives last summer.

The Maui, HI, Fire Department presented the results and recommendations from the “after-action” report on last year’s devastating wildfire. A preliminary report was released by the police department in March.

This after-action report was put together by the Western Fire Chiefs Association, who interviewed more than 200 members of the Maui Fire and Police Departments, as well as personnel from FEMA and the University of Hawaii.

According to Hawaii News Now, Maui fire officials stressed that this report did not cover the cause and origin of the wildfires, but rather was a “thorough, well-researched presentation,” identifying what went well and what improvements should be made.

“It is not an investigation. A well-conceived AAR does not point fingers. It does not name names. That’s not what we’re about in the fire service,” said Assistant Chief Jeff Geisea. “That kind of accusation making doesn’t make us better. It only gets in the way of making genuine improvements. So, you’re not going to find any of that in this document.”

County of Maui Fire Chief Brad Ventura outlined the following key areas the department has identified for improvement:

  • Fully stock relief apparatus
  • Create a statewide mutual aid program
  • Create a communication plan to evacuate visitors and residents who speak different languages

Hawaii News Now reported the following recommendations have already been instituted by the MFD:

  • To pre-position personnel and vehicles during red flag warnings
  • To enhance its ready, set, go communications and messaging with the public
  • Increased use of technology within the department
  • Conducting facility assessments of fire stations to provide adequate power generation during large disasters
  • MFD has requested to update its community wildfire protection plans through the help of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization
  • Conduct meetings to do an island-specific analysis of the cell systems here
  • Increased training in the department’s command and control program

The following recommendations will be addressed potentially in the fiscal year 2025 budget:

  • To increase MFD’s vehicle apparatus inventory
  • Requests for additional fire stations
  • To request for additional water tankers
  • Requests for additional firefighters at various locations to include positions in MFD’s command and control area.

"The insights gained from this AAR should not be confined to Maui alone; instead, they can serve as a guide for other islands, or isolated communities on the mainland with limited emergency resources. While nothing can replace the lives lost, or reduce the number of injuries or properties destroyed, the community will rebuild and can emerge more resilient than ever. As unprecedented and extreme weather conditions continue to persist, the lessons learned from this experience will pave the way for MFD to effectively respond to future challenges," AAR investigators wrote.