Interior Department Mobilizing Support as Part of All of Government Response to Devastating Fires on Maui

Last edited 08/21/2023

Date: Monday, August 21, 2023


WASHINGTON — The Biden-Harris administration has mobilized a robust whole-of-government response effort to support immediate and long-term rescue and recovery efforts in Maui, Hawai’i. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland today affirmed her commitment to do everything within the Department’s authority to provide support to federal partners, the state of Hawai’i and communities in Maui County.

“My heart breaks for so many on Maui who are suffering. I feel a deep connection with communities, like the Native Hawaiian Community, who are intertwined with their ʻāina (land),” said Secretary Haaland. “There is no question that the island will be forever changed by the devastating fires that have destroyed lives and livelihoods. I am so proud of the Interior personnel who are offering their assistance. The support Hawaiians have given each other demonstrates the spirt of ‘ohana (family) that makes them so strong and is an example we should all strive to follow. We stand committed to do everything we can as a federal family to help rebuild.”

Department personnel are supporting efforts through a number of strategies:

Firefighter Support

  • The National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) created a joint firefighter team that successfully supported firefighting efforts and protected Pu’ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site on Hawai’i Island.

Search and Rescue

  • NPS first responders have been actively involved in search and rescue efforts, in coordination with the National Guard and Maui Police Department teams.
  • The Bureau of Indian Affairs deployed a 16-member strike team to assist in providing security for operations in Maui. The team initially provided security for the Disaster Mortuary Operations Response Team and Victim Identification Center and is currently supporting search and recovery teams.
  • NPS Emergency Medical Technicians provided treatment to fire victims rescued by U.S. Coast Guard from the waters off Lahaina. NPS personnel continue to assist in the search and recovery of remains of Lahaina fire victims and are helping staff the Maui Emergency Operations Center.
  • NPS rangers provided support to the Maui Police Department at the Family Assistance Center, helping community members seeking information about loved ones who are unaccounted for.
  • Department personnel, including employees from Haleakalā National Park, continue to volunteer at evacuation shelters and donation stations.

Cultural and Natural Resources

  • The Department’s Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, Office of Native Hawaiian Relations and NPS worked with the Hawai’i State Historic Preservation Division, the Hawai’i Department of Land and Natural Resources and non-governmental organizations including the Hawaiian Museums Association to help identify salvage from several museums and art institutions that suffered damage as well as address concerns over traditional cultural sites.
  • The FWS is working with the US Coast Guard to determine potential impacts to wildlife and habitats including coral reefs.
  • The fires compromised years of watershed protection efforts, introducing the potential for damaging levels of sediment, nutrients and contaminants inundating the precious adjacent coral reef ecosystems. The U.S. Coral Reef Task Force (of which the Department is a co-chair) and its interagency Watershed Partnership Initiative partners are in contact and coordinating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state of Hawaiʻi.

Assessment and Recovery

  • The U.S. Geological Survey is providing support to federal, state and local entities responding to the fires and response efforts. Debris-flow hazard assessments for the Lāhainā and Pūlehu Fires have been completed. Both assessments indicate a low debris-flow hazard. The estimated low hazard is largely due to the lack of steep slopes in both burn areas. Science planning for ash sediments in runoff eventually affecting corals is underway.
  • The FWS completed emergency Section 7 Consultation with FEMA to ensure response and recovery operations are compliant with requirements under the Endangered Species Act.


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