Updated 1:30 p.m. Monday
Wildfires have devastated large areas of Maui in Hawai’i, killing at least 93 people and destroying hundreds of acres of land, including most of the town of Lahaina.
Lahaina, in Maui County, is a historic town and the original capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom, as the state’s former representative Kaniela Ing wrote online.
Jump straight to:
- Where to donate to help people in Maui
- How to spot a fraudulent fundraiser
- What to do if you have a trip planned to Maui
Before-and-after satellite images of Lahaina show the sheer scale of the damage.
What are US and California officials doing to help people on Maui?
President Joe Biden has approved federal disaster relief for the Lahaina wildfires, meaning individuals in Maui County can have the chance for grants that provide “temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, as well as other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the disaster.”
California is also assisting in recovery efforts, as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced he deployed members of California’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces to look for survivors of the fires and assist in recovery operations on Thursday.
“Californians know firsthand the devastating toll of catastrophic wildfires fueled by climate change, capable of wiping out entire communities and centuries of irreplaceable history and heritage,” Newsom said in a statement. “Our state is sending resources to support our Pacific neighbors during their time of need.”
Keep reading if you are a Californian wanting to support those in Hawai’i right now. You can also jump straight to how to spot a fraudulent fundraiser or what you should do if you have a trip planned to Maui.
We’ll update this guide with more information as we find it.
The Hawai’i Community Foundation has a fundraiser called Maui Strong on its website — which is also the fundraiser linked to on the official tourism website of Hawai’i. Learn more about the fund in this link (PDF).
A relief campaign coordinated by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce was started on Saturday in San Francisco for the Maui Strong Fund, reported Bay City News, with further help from San Francisco Travel, the Hotel Council of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Restaurant Association and the Union Square Alliance. Local leaders are also giving shoutouts and making calls for donations Saturday to the thousands expected at the Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park and to concertgoers in Union Square.
“We all felt solidarity with the businesses on Front Street in Lahaina,” said San Francisco Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rodney Fong. “We wanted a unified and heartfelt message to our friends in the hospitality industry in Maui.”
Individuals in the public eye are also starting their own fundraisers. Hawaiian mixed martial artist Ilima-Lei Macfarlane is fundraising on Instagram for the Nā Wahine Toa Foundation. You can donate via Paypal on Macfarlane’s official website.
“Full transparency, I am giving 100% of the donation to Lahaina resident and trusted organizer Tiare Lawrence, to disperse as needed,” Macfarlane wrote in the fundraiser’s description. Nonprofits that Macfarlane said get “funds instantly” to people include @ainamomona and @hawaiiancouncil on Instagram.
Businesses are also accepting food and meal donations, such as Sparky’s Food Company (who posted on Instagram Thursday that they are temporarily halting donations to start preparing hot meals).
If you know someone in Honolulu, you can direct them to the many community efforts to gather resources and supplies. For example, there is a wildfire relief drive Friday morning from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at 1009 Ala Moana Blvd. The Hawai’i Craft & Foodie Fest wrote on Instagram that it is seeking hygiene products, first aid kits, gently used clothes, blankets, towels, pillows, shoes and slippers, diapers and baby formula, and canned goods.
Many community landmarks, like the Na’aikane o Maui Cultural Center, were also burned down, and are seeking support on Venmo.
There is also a Google Spreadsheet circulating online with a list of Lāhainā residents’ Venmos, GoFundMe pages, or Paypals. The spreadsheet also includes a description of need, with many stating they have lived in Lāhainā their whole life or losing everything they owned.
“Aloha, on behalf of the Kama ‘Ohana I humbly ask for donations to help support the family during this devastating time,” one person wrote. “Like many others, the Kama family’s household/vehicles were burnt down during the fire in Lahaina leaving them to evacuate with a total of 6 children, 5 of those children are the ages of 3 years old and under. They are descendants of the Kama Kaaiawahia , Kaniho Ohana. Like the song Lahaina grown, ‘From Olowalu to Napili we know your family from the mountain to the sea.’ They are tied to every family on West Maui.”
“My home. My truck. My accomplishments I’ve worked for my entire adult life. It’s all gone,” another person wrote.
Other tabs of the spreadsheet include information on community organizations to donate to, in-person donation drives, and small businesses support Maui.
There is also a fundraiser for The Maui News, which is a team of four people serving the county that have been heavily impacted by the fires.
During times of distress, it is sadly common to see scams pop up.
Hawai’i Attorney General Anne Lopez sent out an alert Wednesday cautioning people to be careful who they are sending their donations to. “In moments of crisis, we all must be extra vigilant against bad actors who try to take advantage of people’s goodwill,” Lopez said in the news release.
Charities asking for donations in Hawai’i must be registered with the Department of the Attorney General. You can check the status of a charity on Hawai’i’s official Tax & Charities Division page.You can also verify if a charity is legitimate by searching on IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search, Charity Navigator, and DCCA Business Search.
- Pressuring or hurrying you to make a donation.
- Asking for a donation through cash or a gift card.
- Using a name that sounds like the name of a real charity.
- Making “lots of vague and sentimental claims but give no specifics about how your donation will be used.”
You can flag any scams by contacting the Tax & Charities Division at 808-586-1480 or by sending an email to ATG.Charities@hawaii.gov.
I want to help someone I know in Hawai’i
I am trying to find someone on Maui.
You can call the American Red Cross hotline at 1-800-733-2767, according to the county.
There have been citizen-led efforts to track down loved ones who went missing in the fires, like this Maui Fires People Locator Google Sheets list that’s been circulating on social media.
What should I tell people about wildfire smoke?
KQED has a guide on protecting yourself from harms posed by wildfire smoke, as there are some measures people can take to help protect their lungs from smoke pollution. Children are especially sensitive to smoke pollution, as they breathe in more air per body pound than adults.
Tips in the guide include washing your nose out and gargling with clean water five times a day until the smoke subsides. Cloth masks — like the one you likely wore to prevent getting COVID-19 in the early years of the pandemic — will not protect your lungs from the particles found in wildfire smoke.
You can monitor air quality on sites like this page from the Hawai’i Department of Public Health or IQAir.
Is there any mental health support I can recommend for family or friends on Maui?
The Maui Community Mental Health Center is expanding hours to offer mental health services to those experiencing distress due to the wildfires. The center is located at 21 Mahalani Street in Wailuku. Clinic hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There will be extra hours on Saturday and Sunday at the same times.
You can also contact the center by calling 808-984-2150 or emailing email@example.com.
For after-hours, you can contact Hawai’i CARES to speak to a local crisis counselor at 808-832-3100, 1-800-753-6879, or call/text/chat 988.