Masters Reading Room and Baldwin House after August 2023 wildfires, Lāhainā, Maui, Hawaiʻi

photo by: County of Maui

August 17, 2023

National Trust Response to Maui Wildfire

  • By: National Trust for Historic Preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has been watching with deep sadness the incredibly concerning news emerging from the devastating wildfires on the island of Maui in Hawaiʻi. As the loss of life and destruction becomes increasingly apparent and stark, the National Trust stands ready to support our preservation partners on the front lines of this wildfire disaster.

We are communicating with local and state organizations to determine how we can best support efforts to assess, protect, and preserve structures, artifacts, landscapes, and histories in preparation for the future rebuilding and restoration plans. While local and state preservationists are preparing to assess the damage, we have yet to fully understand from our partners how severe the damage is; but early news is cause for deep concern.

The loss is profound. At the epicenter of the fires lies the Lāhainā Historic District, designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962, and once serving as the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. The town was a favorite port for Hawaiian kings and queens, whaling ships, and Christian missionaries. All of this rich history was represented by the museums, landscapes, businesses, houses of worship, and local community before the fires.

In response to this disaster, the National Trust is working with our partners to develop a multi-pronged response that includes grantmaking from preservation funds, technical support and assistance, and attention and advocacy.

While we have faced many natural disasters across the country recently, this climate disaster struck with particular severity in a culturally significant place. The convergence of dry conditions, seasonal wildfires, and unusual storm systems created what is now becoming the familiar headline—climate events which might have once been unique are now all too frequent.

This tragic event also serves as an urgent reminder of how climate disasters can devastate our shared cultural heritage in a singular event. It highlights the need for increased preparation, protection, and resources for preservation. The National Trust will be working to make this happen and will issue updates on our progress.

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places. @savingplaces

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