Timeline: How the deadly wildfires took over Maui day by day

A perfect storm of strong winds and dry conditions left Maui vulnerable.

August 18, 2023, 8:06 PM

Dozens of people have been killed in the devastating Maui wildfires that also left thousands of structures -- including homes, businesses and cultural centers -- destroyed.

The fires crept up on residents and tourists of the Hawaii island of Maui on Aug. 8, as a perfect storm of strong winds and dry conditions left Maui vulnerable to what state officials say has become the deadliest natural disaster in the state's history.

Here is how the disaster turned deadly, slowly blazing through several separate parts of the island.

Monday, Aug. 7: Maui faces high winds

The National Weather Service recorded incredibly high wind gusts across Hawaii, with a high-wind warning issued by the organization for portions of Maui County through 6 a.m. Wednesday.

Some regions would go on to face wind gusts up to 67 miles per hour throughout the week, which officials say fueled the strength of the wildfires across the island.

Maui has been in a drought, according to the National Integrated Drought Information System, which also created the perfect storm for the incoming blazes.

Before 11 p.m. A security camera at the Maui Bird Conservation Center, located in the east Maui region of Upcountry, captures a bright flash in the woods just before 11 p.m.

"It's windy, and then there's a flash, and I think that's when a tree is falling on a powerline," says Jennifer Pribble, a senior research coordinator at the Conservation Center, who is narrating the footage. "The power goes out, our generator kicks on, the camera comes back online, and then the forest is on fire."

Tuesday, Aug. 8: The blazes are reported

12:20 a.m. Just after midnight, a brush fire was reported in the Kula area in the central part of Maui, according to officials. This would become the Upcountry Maui wildfire.

6 a.m. In the early morning hours, around 6:30 a.m., a brush fire of about three acres was reported around Lahainaluna Road, which passed through this historic town of Lahaina in West Maui.

9 a.m. The fire in Lahaina was declared 100% contained just before 9 a.m., according to Maui County officials.

"Containment indicates what percentage of the fire perimeter has been enclosed by a control line," the Maui County website states.

3 p.m. Officials report the perimeter of the Upcountry fire has spread about 1,000 acres and reached as far as Kualono Place near the Kula Lodge.

An afternoon flareup of the Lahaina fire forces the closure of Lahaina Bypass. Throughout the town, residents are trying to make their escape.

Residents from both regions continue to evacuate, as both the mayor and local fire officials urge caution.

"The fire can be a mile or more from your house, but in a minute or two, it can be at your house," said Fire Assistant Chief Jeff Giesea. "Burning airborne materials can light fires a great distance away from the main body of fire."

Around 5 p.m. The situation in Lahaina grows increasingly dire. The next hour becomes a collection of life-or-death decisions for those who remained in Lahaina. Video footage captures people fleeing the blaze, in some cases abandoning their cars, jumping into the ocean or pools for safety.

One man, Denny Yuckert, records himself in the standstill traffic on the city's Front Street. He can be heard saying: "If I make it, that'll be a good thing."

At 5:15 p.m., a woman named Kristina Lee-Garrido and her friend decide they don't have time to flee lower Lahaina. They recorded the blaze around them from the Aina Nalu hotel pool as fire pressed in on all sides.

Around 5:30, another family abandons their car and jump into the ocean.

By 6 p.m, Yuckert has left behind his car and is on the rocks of the harbor with dozens of others who watch as the cars and buildings they abandoned burn.

9:45 p.m. Mayor Richard Bissen issued an emergency proclamation in response to the fires.

The Pulehu/Kihei fire in the southern part of Maui also begins Tuesday.

An aerial view shows damage along the coast of Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, Aug. 9, 2023.
Richard Olsten/Air Maui Helicopters via Reuters

An aerial image shows destroyed homes and buildings burned to the ground in Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui, Hawaii, Aug. 10, 2023.
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Aug. 9

West Maui is without power and has no landline or cellphone service.

3:00 p.m. Firefighting crews are continuing to battle the Lahaina, as well as fires in the Pulehu/Kīhei and Upcountry areas.

3:30 p.m. A federal team arrived in Maui and is on the ground in Lahaina to assist with search and rescue efforts amid the active Lahaina fire. Early reports show six lives lost, but the toll was expected to climb.

"This is a deeply somber day," said Mayor Bissen. "The gravity of losing any life is tragic. As we grieve with their families, we offer prayers for comfort in this inconsolable time."

An aerial image shows destroyed homes burned to the ground in Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui, Hawaii, Aug. 10, 2023.
Rick Bowmer/AP

An aerial image taken on August 10, 2023 of the destroyed homes and buildings burned to the ground in Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui, Hawaii.
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

Aug. 10

10:30 a.m. The Lahaina fire was reported to be 80% contained, after the Fire Department reported progress in fighting all three fires across Maui.

The Pulehu fire was reported to be 70% contained, "after heavy equipment was used to create firebreaks through the night," according to Maui officials.

A containment percentage for the Upcountry fire remained pending.

Officials announced the death toll had risen to 55 people.

Burned cars sit in front of homes destroyed by a wildfire on Aug. 11, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Aug. 11

3:00 p.m. Officials announced the Lahaina fire is 85% contained, the Pulehu/Kihei fire is 80% contained and the Upcountry Maui fire is 50% contained.

6:10 p.m. A Kaʻanapali fire reported above Puʻukoliʻi at 6:10 p.m. was reported to be 100% contained before 8:30 p.m.

The death toll rose to roughly 80 deceased.

Homes and businesses are seen that were destroyed by a wildfire earlier this week, Aug. 11, 2023 in Lahaina, Hawaii.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Aug. 12

The fire in the Puʻukoliʻi and Kaanapali region was extinguished, impacting one acre.

Meanwhile, firefighting crews fought to extinguish flare-ups in the Lahaina and Upcountry fires, both of which had destroyed dozens of structures combined.

The Pulehu/Kīhei fire was declared 100% contained Saturday.

The death toll rose to 93.

Aug. 13

The Upcountry fire is deemed 60% contained, impacting an estimated 678 acres.

The Lahaina fire was deemed 85% contained, impacting an estimated 2,170 acres.

The Pulehu/Kihei fire was 100% contained.

By this time, the Pacific Disaster Center states that an estimated total of 2,719 structures were exposed to the Lahaina fire -- 2,207 structures were damaged or destroyed, and 2,170 acres burned. Of the buildings exposed to the fire, 86% were classified as residential, according to the center.

In Kula, the center reports at least 544 structures have been exposed, with 96% of them being residential.

The fires have cost billions of dollars in damage, state Gov. Josh Green said in a press conference Sunday.

ABC News' Emmanuelle Saliba and Victoria Beaule contributed to this report.

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