Burned cars and destroyed buildings are pictured in the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, western Maui, Hawaii on August 11, 2023. A wildfire that left Lahaina in charred ruins has killed at least 55 people, authorities said on August 10, making it one of the deadliest disasters in the US state's history. Brushfires on Maui, fueled by high winds from Hurricane Dora passing to the south of Hawaii, broke out August 8 and rapidly engulfed Lahaina. (Photo by Paula RAMON / AFP) / "The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Paula RAMON has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [August 11] instead of [August 10]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require." (Photo by PAULA RAMON/AFP via Getty Images)
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A Lot Of Government Officials Should Be Going To Prison For The Hawaii Fires


If we had a functioning news media, there’s a video that would be leading every newscast right now. It has nothing to do with a plane crash in Russia, a GOP primary debate, or even the indictment of every lawyer who’s ever given Donald Trump legal advice, as important as all those topics may be. This video is about Americans — including children — who died horribly this month. It’s about how their deaths could have been prevented if their government was even remotely competent.

The footage I’m talking about is an interview with a survivor of the fires in Maui. This interview was conducted not by CNN or NPR but by a real estate agent who moonlights as a citizen journalist. He spoke with a man who goes by “Fish” and survived the blaze in Lahaina. Here’s what that man saw:

He says, “All the cars were lined up, but none of them were moving. … And I was wondering what was stopping the traffic. It was a policeman.” 

As incredible as that account may seem, it’s clear now that it’s accurate. There are now multiple witnesses saying the same thing. The Associated Press reports that, as residents of one West Maui neighborhood tried to flee using the only paved road in town, “car after car was turned back toward the rapidly spreading wildfire by a barricade blocking access to Highway 30.” Supposedly, authorities were worried about downed power lines. And there certainly were downed power lines. But the problem is that the other option — rather than navigating around that hazard — was to stay and die in the blaze. It seems obvious which was the better choice, and yet police tried to force the residents to stay put. Many people who listened and turned back ended up burning to death in their cars. Others were forced to jump over the seawall and tread water while inhaling smoke. The people who obeyed the authorities ended up dead, in many cases. 

On the other hand, the people who ignored the authorities fared a lot better. Around 3 p.m., for example, a man named Nate Baird and his family tried to drive south out of town but found that the road was blocked by cones and crews “working on downed electric poles,” according to the AP. That’s when Baird decided to ignore what the work crews told him. He drove around the cones, and his family traveled for about an hour until they reached safety. 

The article lists several other examples of people who are alive today because they ignored barricades and authorities’ instructions. 

One 38-year-old woman, Kim Cuevas-Reyes, ignored authorities’ instructions to turn towards the local civic center, which became an ad hoc shelter for refugees. Instead of doing that, the AP reported, “she takes a left, driving in the wrong lane to pass a stack of cars heading in the other direction.” That decision saved her life. “The gridlock would have left us there when the firestorm came,” the woman said. “I would have had to tell my children to jump into the ocean as well and be boiled alive by the flames, or we would have just died from smoke inhalation and roasted in the car.”

It wasn’t until several hours later that authorities announced that the road out of Lahaina was open for traffic. By that point, indeed, many people on that road, called Front Street, had burned to death in their cars or died of smoke inhalation. 

How is it possible that authorities blocked off one of the only usable routes to safety during a wildfire? Given that officials in Hawaii were aware of the risk of wildfire for a long time, that’s an excellent question. Last summer, in regulatory filings, Hawaiian Electric made it clear that the risk of deadly wildfires was real, especially during high winds. And yet, apparently, the plan for dealing with this kind of disaster didn’t preclude sealing all the roads and trapping people in the middle of a wildfire.

WATCH: The Matt Walsh Show

If you think back to Hurricane Katrina, one of the biggest failures of FEMA was a lack of planning. The government ran evacuation simulations but didn’t implement the necessary improvements after those simulations. So, when the hurricane struck, there was chaos. A lot of people died as a result. We’re seeing that again. All these years later, the same lack of preparation is causing people to die.

The difference is that we aren’t hearing much about FEMA in the aftermath of the catastrophe in Maui. Why is that? Deanne Criswell is the administrator of FEMA, the federal emergency management agency. She has the same job Michael Brown did in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. Brown, you might remember, became a household name in the wake of that disaster — and not in a good way. When George Bush told Brown he was doing a “heckuva job,” it instantly became a national scandal. Brown was so radioactive that no one was allowed to say anything nice about him.

Unlike Michael Brown, Deanne Criswell is not well-known. You probably haven’t even heard her name. I didn’t know it until I looked it up. Despite the ongoing disaster in Maui, the national news media and the major political parties in Washington still hold her in high regard. Just the other day, she sat for a friendly interview on “Face the Nation”:

The burned-out cars were the most shocking thing, says the FEMA director. It was “like an apocalyptic movie.” There’s no scrutiny from “Face the Nation” or any media outlet about why those cars were stranded there in the first place. There wasn’t a single question in that segment about why FEMA didn’t have evacuation plans that might have ensured the survival of all those people. 

We learned yesterday that Hawaii’s top emergency response officials were on another island, supposedly learning how to respond to wildfires, on the day the blaze began in Maui. And some key federal disaster officials were apparently busy at some FEMA meetings. What explains that? Again, we have no idea because no one is asking. Reporters are busy talking to Deanne Criswell, the FEMA director, like she’s some bystander visiting Maui for the first time.

This is the opposite of how the press treated Michael Brown decades ago. It’s not hard to see why this might be. Deanne Criswell, unlike Michael Brown, is working for Democrats. She’s also the first woman to run FEMA, so she has the whole identity politics thing going for her. It would look very bad if the first woman to run FEMA is also responsible for bungling the response to one of the worst disasters in American history. Of course, no matter how it looks, that’s exactly what happened. But the media has decided to plug its ears and close its eyes and pretend it’s not happening.

But if you do what no major media outlet is interested in doing — if you look into Criswell’s past — there’s a lot to discuss. As investigative journalist Nick Sortor pointed out the other day, Criswell’s government biography states that “one of her most significant accomplishments was leading the coordination of [New York City’s] response to the COVID-19 pandemic” when she served as the Commissioner of the New York City Emergency Management Department.

New York’s handling of COVID led to more than 10,000 deaths in nursing homes — deaths that were undercounted for several months until investigative reporters noticed discrepancies in the government’s data. In most countries, everyone overseeing a response like that would never work again in any capacity, much less in disaster relief. They’d go to prison for life, if anything. But Deanne Criswell was never even criticized. In fact, she got a promotion. Ten thousand deaths in nursing homes, and she gets promoted. And then, overseeing yet another failed disaster response, she gets softball questions from every news outlet. 

It’s astonishing, really. We’ve seen our public health authorities and political leaders lead us into one disaster after another. And they’re not slowing down. Right now, because it’s an election year and Pfizer stock is in trouble, the media is gearing up for COVID 2.0. Several major corporations and some universities are already implementing mask mandates again. Watch:

Along these lines, CNN just published an article entitled, “It may be time to break out the masks against Covid, some experts say.” The report scolds Americans for not being sufficiently deferential to people with advanced degrees and positions of power. “Despite the concern among experts and some institutions, Americans don’t appear to be worried enough about the recent rise in cases to change their behavior. Covid-19 was at the bottom of their list of key public health threats, according to the latest Axios [poll].”

It’s not hard to see why Americans are reacting that way. The first time around, more than three years ago, the conventional wisdom was that if you wanted to survive, your best bet was to trust the experts. Then the experts said you could protest for BLM but couldn’t protest against lockdowns. They admitted they were lying about herd immunity. They misled everyone on the effectiveness of the COVID shot. No one really trusts these experts anymore, for good reason.

That’s encouraging, but the truth is, it’s not enough. A lot of people just died in Maui because officials forcibly blockaded them. The government and the “experts” prevented these American citizens from leaving their neighborhood as a wildfire approached them. The only way to survive was not simply to doubt but to disobey. When the next lockdown comes, whether the pretext is a COVID variant, a climate emergency, or something else — that’s the correct response. Do what Nate Baird did on Maui. Ignore the liars calling themselves experts. Do what you think is best for yourself and your family, and do it fast. Otherwise, quicker than you might think, you’ll be trapped. By that point, like the people of Maui, you will have no way out. Because the fact is that, increasingly, we live in a country where only those who disobey will survive.


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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  A Lot Of Government Officials Should Be Going To Prison For The Hawaii Fires