U.S. Coast Guard Rescued 12 People From the Water During Lahaina Fire

Courtesy County of Maui

Published Aug 9, 2023 9:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Tuesday, a raging wildfire on Maui destroyed most of the seaside town of Lahaina, forcing some residents to jump into the sea to escape. 

According to Hawaii Governor Josh Green, the fire was driven by "hurricane-force winds in the region and underlying drought conditions." Hurricane Dora is passing by Hawaii to the south, whipping the islands with winds without dropping any rain. The effects propelled the Lahaina fire forwards so quickly that first responders could do little to prevent the town's destruction. 

36 people have been confirmed dead, according to local officials and at least three others have been hospitalized for serious burns. 


According to local media, the U.S. Coast Guard dispatched responders to the waterfront in Lahaina's Boat Harbor to rescue people who had jumped into the water to escape the fire. About one dozen people were pulled from the sea by a rescue boat, which transited over from Station Maui in nearby Maalaea.

Gusts of up to 80 miles per hour made helicopter operations unsafe for Coast Guard and Navy aviation on Tuesday, according to officials with the County of Maui. With wind conditions improving Wednesday, SAR helicopter operators have joined the damage assessment and relief efforts. 



Photos from Lahaina taken overnight Tuesday show near-complete devastation across the popular tourist town, with charred debris floating on the water and burned-out cars along the waterfront. One aerial video taken the morning after showed a boat still burning outside of the town's small harbor. 

Response and recovery efforts will take time. About 2,000 evacuated residents are sheltering at local high schools and community centers, and another 2,000 tourists and travelers packed the local airport in an attempt to depart. Hawaii's governor has asked for tourists to avoid voluntary travel to the area in order to conserve resources for residents in distress. With supermarkets, stores and basic infrastructure destroyed in Lahaina, basic goods are in limited supply, including gas and food. 


The disaster is not yet over: wildland firefighters are still battling at least six other blazes across Maui and the Big Island, and a "red flag" fire risk warning remains in effect for Maui through tomorrow.