Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Theories about the Maui Fires

What’s really going on in Hawaii???

After the wildfires in Lahaina, a town on the island of Maui, countless rumors and conspiracy theories have begun to spread almost as fast as the fires did. Beginning early on August 8th, 2023 the fires lasted until the evening of August 10th, taking over 100 lives. The locals sought shelter anywhere they could, but as the island continued to burn, they fled to the beaches for 8 hours until firefighters were able to rescue them. These fires devastated the island, but why were all precautions taken, ineffective? What led this fire to be so destructive? Well, that’s where the conspiracy theories and questionable aspects of the island come into play.


  • If Hawaii is known for its emergency warning systems, why did the island remain silent as the fires spread?

One resident even noted that his only evacuation notice came from the “huge plume of black smoke” in the sky. Locals were caught off guard by this tragedy seeing as they had no warning until it was too late. How does a 400-piece alarm system (the largest in the world) simply turn off the day that it is needed the most? Ray Sanchez from CNN explains how “the state’s vaunted integrated outdoor siren warning system…was not activated during the fires, according to Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.” Residents felt as though they were left to fend for themselves and one even says they “felt like we had absolutely no warning” (Ray Sanchez, CNN, 2023). As the power went out island-wide, communications became even more limited as the ability to contact 911 and most cell phone services were cut off causing this tragedy to be the deadliest natural disaster in the state’s history.


  • Why did one specific portion of the island remain untouched by the fires?

Most of the island was destroyed and burnt down, but for some reason, people have noticed that Oprah Winfrey’s property somehow remained untouched by the flames, beginning to raise questions about how and why her getaway ranch on the island was some of the only property spared from the infernos. This has caused conspiracy theories to circulate online about why the homes of the wealthy were conspicuously spared from the blazes. One local flew their drone to get an aerial view of the damage on the island and noticed that ”some buildings had survived the fire relatively unscathed, while most others immediately adjacent had been burned to the ground” and theorized that “It’s almost like buildings have been specifically targeted with pinpoint accuracy…” (Aleks Phillipps, Newsweek, 2023).

Business Insider


  • Why was the water shut off for the whole island?

As firefighters rushed to the scenes of the fires, they were shocked to find that almost all fire hydrants were dry, or had too little water pressure to affect the quickly spreading flames. Even the few drops of water that escaped from the fire hydrants turned to mist as the high-speed winds whipped the flames around. The New York Times reveals that “The collapse of the town’s water system…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.” 


  • Was this the beginning of rebuilding Maui as the world’s first “Smart City”?

As theories circulate online, social media users are thinking that Maui residents were actually behind the fires so they could buy the destroyed land at a discounted price and rebuild potentially a “smart city.” After noticing how “cheaper lower middle-class houses burnt down directly across the street and all of the mansions are still standing” (Samantha Murphy Kelly, CNN, 2023) residents became suspicious of the irregular destruction patterns of the fires. 


The New York Times


While conspiracy theories are interesting to dive into, they tend to focus on false information rather than relief efforts and donations to help the devastated families and land. Social media websites have begun cracking down on rumors being posted, hoping that they don’t gain traction and spread misinformation, and instead, promoting donation websites and academic sources. According to an article by the National Public Radio (NPR)  “In the absence of clear, reliable information, the rumors grew and cast suspicion on emergency response efforts. They fed into people’s fears that they wouldn’t be able to keep their land or their homes, if they remained, leading some to return to houses in the burn zone, days after the fire — despite warnings from authorities that the air and water may not be safe, and the structures may be compromised.” Oftentimes, conspiracy theories can delay recovery after disasters since national organizations like FEMA can get caught up in the mix of misinformation. NPR states that “FEMA…became subject to rumors related to the fire, [and] declined NPR’s request for an interview but pointed people toward local community leaders and emergency managers for accurate disaster-related information.” It’s difficult to differentiate rumors from facts, and in the online and offline worlds, they often cross-pollinate and become confusing to readers, even those with intentions to aid in relief efforts.

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    Tonya KeliikoaOct 23, 2023 at 8:41 am

    Most of Maui was Not burned down! Most of Lahaina and Parton upcountry wre burned, but not Most of the island! Get your facts straight!