Last victim of Maui wildfires identified months after disaster


The last victim of the Maui wildfires has been identified, officials said Saturday, bringing the death toll on the Hawaiian island to 100. 

The victim was identified as Lydia Coloma, 70, of Lahaina, according to the Maui Police Department. Lahaina was nearly destroyed by the fast-moving August fires, with one resident calling it “unrecognizable.” Thousands of structures, most of them homes, burned.

Roughly two-thirds of the known victims who died in the fire were 60 or older, like Coloma, according to a list from Maui County. 

The identification of Coloma means that there are no identified individuals who died in the fires whose families have not been located or notified. There are also no more unidentified bodies related to the fires. 

Supplies are deliverd to Lahaina
Lahaina, Maui, just days after the wildfires.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

The wildfires began on Aug. 8, while much of Hawaii was under a red flag warning for fire risk because of dangerously high wind conditions caused by Hurricane Dora, a powerful storm that was moving across the Pacific Ocean. Hawaiian Electric, the state’s electric utility company, has acknowledged its power lines started a wildfire on Maui, but faulted county firefighters for declaring the blaze contained and leaving the scene, only to have the flames rekindle nearby.

Evacuations were chaotic, and the inferno swept through Lahaina, a historic town and cultural area. CBS News previously reported that 911 calls from those fleeing the flames revealed people were unsure where to go, and that emergency services were overwhelmed by the need. 

Officials on the island have been criticized for not sounding the island’s evacuation sirens. Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya said in a news conference that he thought the sirens would have caused more chaos and caused people to go to parts of the island that were even more at risk. Andaya said he did not regret his decision, but has since resigned from his position. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green called Andaya’s response “utterly unsatisfactory to the world.”

Covering the Maui wildfires, among the deadliest in U.S. history


The death toll from the fires remained unclear for weeks after the flames were brought under control. Nearly two weeks after the fires, the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimated that between 1,000 and 1,100 people were missing. Three weeks after the fires, the FBI updated their list to reflect that there were believed to be 385 people who were missing and 115 dead. 

In September, the death toll dropped to 97, with 31 people missing. Green said the “number dropped a little bit because the Department of Defense and all of their physical anthropologists were able to help us discern better who was in cars or in houses.” 

Tourism has since begun to return to West Maui. Green has said that tourism would “be helping our people heal” and has encouraged travelers to visit the area. Lahaina remains off-limits to everyone except residents and business owners. 

West Maui residents have said that they are struggling to balance the need to encourage tourism, which is vital to the state’s economy, and deal with their own trauma from the fires. Thousands of people who lost homes also remain in hotels, and some Hawaii residents fear that they will be pushed out of Maui’s already tight and expensive housing market because of rising costs



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