A Maui resident told media outlets they were beating the fires until “the water turned off.”
After the water went out, he said there was nothing they could do.
“Tree fell over, hit the power lines, and that’s what started the fire,” said Kula resident Ross Hart.
Hart, who lived in the area for 40 years, reportedly said he and his neighbors fought all day to keep the fires at bay.
“We had a hard time holding it back, but still we were winning the game,” Hart said.
“And then the water turned off.”
“And then there wasn’t anything we could do. The sparks were blowing up out of the gulch,” he added.
Maui resident explains how locals fought wildfire on Kula side until water shut off pic.twitter.com/WwjsO3fKXu
— Jonathan Bustos (@JonathanJBustos) August 13, 2023
Firefighters working to contain the inferno in Lahaina reported similar accounts of the water shutting off.
“There was just no water in the hydrants,” Keahi Ho, one of the firefighters on duty in Lahaina, told The New York Times.
The New York Times reports:
The collapse of the town’s water system, described to The New York Times by several people on scene, is yet another disastrous factor in a confluence that ended up producing what is now the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than 100 years. The lack of water forced firefighters into an extraordinary rush to save lives by risking their own, and it has left people searching for answers about how the community can better prepare for a world of fiercer winds and drier lands.
Edwin Lindsey III, who goes by Ekolu, a Lahaina resident who lost his home and also sits on the county’s Board of Water Supply, said he spoke with a firefighter who said it had been demoralizing for crews to watch the advance of the fire with little ability to slow it. He said he hoped that the water issues, one of a number of challenges the community faced — including a struggle to evacuate all residents — would be part of a larger discussion about lessons from the fire.
“What do we learn from this?” he said.
The water system in Lahaina relies on both surface water from a creek and groundwater pumped from wells. Persistent drought conditions combined with population growth have already led officials at the state and local level to explore ways to shore up water supplies, and they broke ground on a new well two months ago to increase capacity.
Hart shared his account of the fires with The New York Times.
“We were fighting; we felt like we were winning. We were keeping it at bay, keeping it off of the properties. The water shut off,” he said.
“Even the firemen that were patrolling couldn’t refill their trucks.”
— Momo (@Momootjem2) August 15, 2023