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Hawaii Wildfires

Active Emergency (Photo/Dustin Johnson/Handout via REUTERS)
August 2023
An aerial image taken on August 10, 2023 shows a person walking down Front Street past destroyed buildings burned to the ground in Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui, Hawaii. At least 36 people have died after a fast-moving wildfire turned Lahaina to ashes, officials said August 9, 2023 as visitors asked to leave the island of Maui found themselves stranded at the airport. The fires began burning early August 8, scorching thousands of acres and putting homes, businesses and 35,000 lives at risk on Maui, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said in a statement. (Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Deadly Wildfires

“A lot of the survivors had to leave their homes very quickly and did not have an opportunity to get anything or take anything with them and many have lost everything,” said Mariel Fonteyn, Americares director of U.S. emergency response.

Devastating wildfires, spurred by dry conditions and strong winds in the aftermath of Hurricane Dora, have swept through the Hawaiian Islands, killing 97 people, causing major destruction and displacing thousands across Maui, the Big Island, and Lahaina. The Maui wildfires that consumed the community of Lahaina are the deadliest in the U.S in more than 100 years according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Much of historic downtown Lahaina has been reduced to ash. Search and recovery efforts have been completed and the next phase of recovery is underway. Hundreds of people are still listed as missing. Approximately 2,200 structures have been destroyed or damaged in Maui, most of them residential. President Joe Biden approved an emergency disaster declaration, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide support and federal funding for the recovery.

Americares has deployed emergency teams to Hawaii.

Updated 11.20.23

An aerial image taken on August 10, 2023 shows a person walking down Front Street past destroyed buildings burned to the ground in Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui, Hawaii, that began on August 8. Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Our Response

U.S-based Americares emergency response experts completed the first phase of our work, assessed the needs of local health care facilities, coordinated emergency shipments of medicine and relief supplies and worked with local and national organizations responding to the crisis. 

The team visited a number of facilities including a shelter and family assistance center, a clinic, and a medical “hub” where multiple local clinics and pharmacies are currently operating. The needs in the community have included respiratory illnesses and mental health.

Another team has deployed and will rotate providing support to 3 partners in Maui. The team will work with Maui Behavioral Health Resources to create and provide trainings to their staff. The team will also assist in training and providing resources for a new staff member who will work a “warm line” that will provide a space for individuals with small crises to call. In addition, Americares will be supporting Malama Ke Ola one day a week where the team will meet with individuals and groups to provide emotional care support. Lastly, the team plans to work with the Maui AIDS Foundation to establish MHPSS interventions and trainings that can be shared with staff.

Americares has approved emergency funding to partners including West Hawaii Community Health Center, Information Technology Disaster Resource Center, Aloha House and the Community Clinic of Maui dba Malama Ke Ola Health Center.

  • Funding to West Hawaii Community Health Center will be used to provide urgent medical services to individuals affected by the wildfires in Lahaina, Kihei, and Kula. West Hawaii Community Health Center has partnered with the State Department of Health, Waianae Coast Comprehensive, and Malama Ke Ola to provide care every day since the fires began. These health centers have been deploying a team of 5 personnel consisting of a behavioral health specialist, licensed doctor, RN, medical assistant, community health worker, and patient navigator to provide wound care, respiratory assessments, and referrals for patients.  
  • Emergency funding will be used by the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center (ITDRC) to procure hand-held radios that will be distributed amongst clinics, community response teams, and outreach teams.
  • Funding for Malama Ke Ola will be used to purchase resources for a mobile medical unit that will operate in Lahaina.
  • Aloha House, another recipient of emergency funding, is a behavioral health organization in Maui whose mission is to promote recovery and healthy lifestyles. Since the wildfires, Aloha House has seen an influx in phone calls from individuals who want to speak with someone. In addition, they have seen a lack of phone calls from adults trying to access substance abuse resources. This grant would be used to fund a “warm line” which would make phone calls to at-risk individuals impacted by the fire.
  • Funding for Heart to Heart International will go towards funding the donation of 1 fully equipped modular clinic for Project Vision to provide healthcare services to temporary and current unhoused residents in Lahaina who have been impacted by the fire. The clinic will operate 24/7 and will be staffed with a nurse and nurse practitioner. 
  • In addition, support has been provided for Hospice Maui, Maui AIDs Foundation, and Project Vision.
From left to right: Betsy Warfield, Senior Director, EP Systems and Global Readiness, Martha Kennard, Deputy SVP, Gift in Kind Operations, Augistina Boehringer, and Wes Comfort of Heart to Heart International stand in front of a portable clinic at Heart to Heart’s international headquarters in Lenexa Kansas. Americares and Heart to Heart International donated the portable clinic to Project Vision Hawaii to provide medical care to unhoused populations and those displaced by the Maui wildfires .

At the same time, Americares has provided shipments of hygiene items and other medical supplies to Project Vision and West Hawaii Community Health Center. The team has also identified several areas for potential MHPSS support which will be followed up in the coming weeks  

“This recovery will unfortunately take years,” 

Mariel Fonteyn