The military response to the Maui wildfires
The 2023 Maui wildfire is the deadliest U.S. fire in over 100 years, claiming over 100 lives. As of August 21, more than 850 residents remain unaccounted for as search crews work through the charred remains of over 2,000 homes and businesses. In response to the disaster, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin designated Army Brig. Gen. Stephen Logan as commander of Joint Task Force 50, synchronizing all DoD operations on Maui.
On August 17, Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder announced that nearly 700 DoD personnel and 140 Coast Guardsmen are participating in the relief efforts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is removing debris and providing temporary power and the Coast Guard is minimizing maritime environmental impacts and responding to new reports of people in the water. Meanwhile, the Hawaii National Guard activated over 250 Army and Air National Guardsmen for duty on Maui, including support to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, command and control elements, and local law enforcement.
At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, DoD personnel are conducting six approved mission assignments. The Pentagon reports that these include providing liaison officers and inter-island air and sea transportation for the movement of cargo, personnel, supplies and equipment. Cargo pallets of supplies are being flown in on KC-130s and brought to areas in need by soldiers and Marines. FEMA also requested space at Schofield Barracks on Oahu for support facilities for federal emergency responders.
Although most of the fires are contained, they are not all completely extinguished. Moreover, dry climate and high winds leave the risk of future fires high on the already devastated islands. To that end, DoD personnel remain on standby for aerial fire suppression. Two Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopters equipped with fire suppression buckets already dropped over 189,000 gallons of water in support of firefighting efforts. Navy SH-60 Seahawks and Marine CMV-22 Ospreys in Hawaii are also on standby to provide support.