August 8, 2023, multiple wildfires broke out in the western and central parts of Maui, burning down an estimated 2,000 acres, including the historical port town of Lahaina. Strangely enough, satellite images show the fires all began around the same time.
The fires — fueled by hurricane-strength 60 to 90 mph winds from Hurricane Dora, which passed some 500 miles south of Hawaii1 — ripped across the landscape at a pace of 1 mile per minute (that’s 60 mph folks).2 In addition to the fire’s rapid spread, the local warning system also failed. As a result, many residents didn’t realize they were in danger until smoke billowed into their homes.
The death toll appears to have been further exacerbated by the fact that schools closed and children were sent home. Many parents remained at work, and because the warning sirens didn’t go off, many children were burned alive in their own homes.
According to Gov. Josh Green, the warning sirens may have been “immobilized” by heat from the fire, but the exact cause for the failure is still under investigation.3 However, Maui also has a cellphone alert system. You may recall Maui residents received a false alert on their phones about an inbound missile threat five years ago.4 Even if the sirens had been destroyed by fire, why wasn’t a cellphone alert dispatched?…