The death toll stood at 36 as we went to air on today's BradCast, with nearly 300 structures confirmed as destroyed. But officials have since bumped up the confirmed death toll to 53, with more than 1,000 homes and buildings destroyed in the town of Lahaina and surrounding areas on Hawaii's island of Maui. According to our guest today, who has been on the ground there since the blazes were first sparked on Tuesday, those numbers could still get far worse as he describes what has happened in his community as if "Hell opened its mouth."
You have likely heard, by now, that devastating wildfires were whipped up this week in Hawaii, amid near hurricane force wind gusts from the northern edge of Hurricane Dora, passing about 500 miles to the south. The high winds made it impossible for firefighting helicopters to snuff out the blazes in their early hours on Tuesday. Those fires then grew out of control amid dry and windy conditions over the next two days.
Officials are still battling to contain the fires as search and rescue efforts are ramping up, even as they attempt to find shelter for displaced residents and tourists in the once tropical paradise.
We're joined today by radio veteran SHAGGY JENKINS from Maui, where he formerly served as the longtime Program Director at our affiliate station there, KAKU 88.5FM. Jenkins now serves as Operations Manager for a group of Hawaii stations and has been putting in a ton of overnight on-air hours along with his regularly scheduled morning show, to try and help keep the community informed over our public airwaves during the ongoing emergency.
In addition to the firestorms that seemingly sprang up from nowhere and have leveled much of the historic, 1700s-era town of Lahaina --- once the Hawaiian kingdom's capitol city --- on the western side of Maui, Jenkins explains that fires are also raging somewhat to the east and on the Big Island as well.
"Although Lahaina made a lot of national headlines, parts of the neighborhoods upcountry, far away from Lahaina, have also had devastation. We've had complete neighborhoods and subdivisions wiped out for local families," he tells me, describing scenes that look more like bombed out cities of post-WWII Europe or in Ukraine today. "It's on a scale that we've never seen. It's just exhausting to look at, because it's still happening. I don't know how to describe Lahaina other than it's like Hell opened its mouth."
I hope you'll tune in for this must-listen conversation, particularly if you both want to know what appears to have happened and how you can help.
"It's all gone," laments Jenkins, as he becomes swept up in emotion describing the fate of Lahaina, "one of the most historic cities in the entire state."
"It's kind of hard to put into scale how much history, and how much of our old families that were born here and raised for generations, have lost everything. Some of the places that have been devastated --- they're the postcard images that you send everybody when you come to a vacation here. And they're all gone."
"The families that lived in those areas ... they're gone ... I'm sorry ... It's hard," he tells me as he chokes up, "...because we on the island, we're very close, as far as the local population. We know everybody."
Jenkins details how environmental conditions have changed in recent years as our climate crisis has taken a toll in drying out the once idyllic tropical paradise, and as "Big Ag" sugar operations up and left behind unrestored swaths of land.
"It is appreciably different" in recent years, he explains. "Part of the reason for that, not too long ago, we shut down the sugar industry here. The center body of the island is mostly ag land. And when the sugar industry left, a lot of that land went barren waiting for different owners. As all of these changes have happened, it's dried out the island. For the past five years, we have seen more and more brown than we usually do. Those conditions --- those dry, big, open-area fields --- were some of the reasons that the fires here spread so much. And since the sugar industry ended, we have had a step up in our wildfires."
One of the biggest ways we can help, Jenkins says, is to not come to Maui right now. While the island thrives on the tourism industry, now is not the time, as empty hotel rooms are being used to help house those who have lost everything. "We do not have the water, we do not have the power, we do not have the space," he asserts, noting that he is not "anti-tourist", but "every single resort that we have that has an empty room, we are trying to put in a local displaced family."
"The way that you can help us, the best way, is to stay away, and let us have the time to find and bury our dead, to fix our broken infrastructure. And, sadly, to start the very dangerous and long, arduous process of rebuilding one of the most historic cities in the state."
Jenkins does point those who would like to offer help to visit MauiFoodBank.org/Donate. As noted, I hope you will tune in for today's conversation with Shaggy.
Meanwhile, in other, very much related, news today...
- Reinsurance giant Swiss Re Group released a report asserting that severe thunderstorms during the first half of this year in the U.S. have resulted in unprecedented levels of damage, including some $34 billion in insured losses. That number accounted for 70% of the $50 billion in global catastrophic damage from similar storms over the same period.
- All of this, even as 2024 Republican (Vice-)Presidential hopeful and U.S. Senator Tim Scott of climate change-threatened South Carolina took to Fox "News" on Wednesday with faux outrage claiming that the idea that we are facing a "climate emergency is ridiculous"(!) Of far greater import, he asserted, is that "we have a border emergency that is an existential threat right now." Desi Doyen has a few choice words for the embarrassing Senator, who apparently hasn't noticed the actual existential threat of climate change, right now, which has, over the same 24-hour period during which Scott was blathering his dangerous, wingnut, fossil-fueled disinformation on Fox, taken the lives of at least 53 of Scott's fellow American citizens in Hawaii. That, just days after hundreds have died from prolonged extreme heat in places like Arizona.
- More on all of this follows in Desi's latest Green News Report today, before we then close out the week with some listener mail on "autocracy v. fascism" and some anecdotal evidence that support for our disgraced, so-far thrice-indicted former President may finally be flagging among some his supporters...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)