Bright orange X’s on buildings mark the search for bodies after the deadly Maui fire. HR for human remains

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Counting the dead is a grim job A brutal forest fire On the Hawaiian island of Maui on Saturday, as crews picked through the devastation, they marked homes with a bright orange X to indicate they looked for bodies and manpower when they found human remains.

At least 80 people were killed in the inferno in Lahaina, a centuries-old town on Maui’s west coast. As the standing houses took their marks, residents who made it out alive returned to list their losses.

“Most of our focus today will be on people,” Gov. Josh Green said Saturday, as he and representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency stood under the charred branches of an old, treasured banyan tree on historic Front Street. Green said operations are now focused on “loss of life.”

The fire burned hundreds of homes to ashes, prompting emergency workers to scramble Saturday to find temporary housing for those lucky enough to survive. With 30 cell towers still offline, communication was still difficult. Power outages were expected in the western part of the island for several weeks. Meanwhile, officials have warned that the death toll could rise as search efforts continue.

Those who survived were counting their blessings, thankful to be alive while they mourned those who didn’t.

Retired Fire Chief Jeff Boger and his friend of 35 years, Franklin Trejos, initially stayed behind to help others in Lahaina and save Boger’s home. But as the flames grew closer Tuesday afternoon, they knew they had to get out. Each escaped in their own car. When Bogers didn’t start, he broke a window to get out, then crawled on the floor until a police patrol found him and brought him to the hospital.

Trejos was not so lucky. When Boker returned the next day, he found the bones of his 68-year-old friend in the back seat of his car, lying on top of the remains of Boker’s beloved 3-year-old golden retriever, Sam. Tried to protect.

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Trejos, a native of Costa Rica, lived with Boger and his wife, Shannon Weber-Boger, for years, helping with seizures when her husband couldn’t. He filled their lives with love and laughter.

“God took a good man,” Weber-Boger said.

Bill Wyland lives on the island of Oahu, but owns an art gallery Lahaina’s Historic Front StreetHaving burned the hair on the back of his neck, he fled on Tuesday by riding his motorcycle on empty pavements on his Harley Davidson to avoid the busy roads.

Riding into the wind, he estimated at 70 miles per hour (112 kilometers per hour), he passed a man on a bicycle who was frantically pedaling for his life.

“It’s something you might see in the Twilight Zone, a horror movie or something,” Wyland said.

Wieland realized how lucky he was when he returned to downtown Lahaina on Thursday.

“It was devastating to see all the burnt cars. There was nothing standing,” he said.

His gallery was also destroyed along with the works of 30 artists.

Emergency managers on Maui were looking for places to house people displaced from their homes. County officials said on Facebook early Saturday that 4,500 people needed shelter, citing figures from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pacific Disaster Center.

Flyovers by the Civil Air Patrol found 1,692 structures destroyed – almost all of them residential. Nine boats sank in Lahaina Harbor, authorities determined using sonar.

The wildfires are the state’s worst natural disaster in decades, surpassing the 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people. Even more dangerous was the 1946 tsunami that killed more than 150 people on the Big Island, prompting the creation of a territory-wide emergency system with sirens that are tested monthly.

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Hawaii emergency management records do not indicate warning sirens sounded before people ran for their lives. Officials sent alerts to cellphones, televisions and radio stations, but widespread power outages and cellular outages may have limited their reach.

A as fuel Dry summer and strong winds from a A passing stormWildfires on Maui ran through the dry brush covering the island.

The most intense fire tore through Lahaina on Tuesday and destroyed every building in the town of 13,000, leaving a grid of gray rubble between the blue ocean and lush green slopes.

Front Street, the heart of historic downtown and Maui’s economic center, was almost empty of life Saturday morning. Confronted by an Associated Press journalist carrying a laptop and passport in bare feet, he asked where the nearest shelter was. Another, riding his bicycle, took stock of the damage at the port, where he said his boat had caught fire and sunk.

A fire engine and a few construction trucks were seen driving through the neighborhood, but it was devoid of human and official government activity. Some residents have expressed frustration over road closures and difficulty accessing their homes due to police checkpoints.

Maui water officials warned Lahaina and Kula residents not to drink running water, which can be contaminated even when it boils, and to take only short, dull showers in well-ventilated rooms to avoid exposure to chemical vapors.

According to disaster and risk modeling firm Karen Clark & ​​Company, the wildfires are already projected to be the second costliest disaster in Hawaii’s history behind Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Fatalities after fires in the United States 2018 Camp Fire In California, it killed at least 85 people and devastated the city of Paradise.

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Maui’s danger is well known. Maui County’s Hazard Reduction Plan, updated in 2020, identified Lahaina and other West Maui communities as being at risk from frequent wildfires and many structures. The report also noted that West Maui has the island’s second-highest proportion of households without a vehicle and the highest proportion of non-English speakers.

“This can limit the population’s ability to receive, understand and take rapid action during risk events,” the plan said.

Maui’s firefighting efforts may have been hampered by limited personnel and equipment.

Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaii Firefighters Association, said there are a maximum of 65 district firefighters working for the three islands of Maui, Molokai and Lanai at any given time.

Riley Curran said she escaped from her Front Street home by climbing onto a neighboring building to get a better look. He doubts county officials could have done more given the speed of the fire.

“It’s not that people aren’t trying to do anything,” Curran said. “The fire went from zero to 100.”

Curran said California has seen wildfires grow.

But, he added, “I’ve never seen a whole city eaten in four hours.”

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Kelleher reported from Honolulu. Associated Press writers Rebecca Boone in Boise, Idaho; Andrew Selsky in Bend, Oregon; Bobby Kaina Galvan in New York; Audrey McAvoy in Wailuku, Hawaii and Lisa J. in Evans, Georgia. Adams Wagner contributed to this report.

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