Maui Wildfires : Ashley Correa has many questions about how the government handled the Maui wildfires that destroyed her home. Why did the answer take so long? Could emergency funds have been larger? What will rebuilding be like?
Ashley Correa worries about the 2023 Track & Field World Championships in Budapest. The 32-year-old agent helped friends, family, and Maui residents recover from the fires. He expected President Joe Biden’s Monday visit would spur greater aid.
Before Air Force One arrived in Hawaii, Correa thought, “Maybe he needs to see it for himself.”
In difficult circumstances, the president’s leadership is tested more than before. President Biden is called the “empathizer-in-chief” for losing many friends. He was in trouble earlier this month for not discussing wildfire aid while relaxing at his Rehoboth Beach home. He also faced criticism for spending over two weeks to travel to Maui after the fires, which the White House said sped up search and rescue.
Since then, the administration has explained how the feds handled the deadliest fire in a century. On two occasions, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell briefed the media on government activities in the White House. Publicly, Biden mentioned the flames three times before his trip.
President Biden visited damaged Lahaina and flew over the damage, praising the Hawaiian people’s resiliency. The president remarked, “Jill and I are here to grieve with you, but I also want you to know that the whole country is here for you.” This showed that he understood how terrible it was not to know what might follow after a disaster.
Help and land defense was requested along Biden’s path. Hawaii governor Josh Green reported 114 deaths and over 1,000 missing.
Local and state governments were criticized for their tardy response to Maui wildfires. Maui’s emergency manager, who opposed wildfire alarms, resigned after the catastrophe. The Hawaii governor thought fire sirens were rare, but historian Douglas Brinkley thought Biden responded too late.
Notre Dame fire researcher Alfonzo Pedraza-Martinez offered a more complex answer. He thought Biden’s public statements may have been harsher, but he was worried that a site visit sooner would have diverted resources from aiding the suffering to protecting the president.
Ashley Correa, a private victim advocate, felt the government took too long to help. Correa appreciated how search and aid efforts altered after the fires, but she thought the U.S. was kinder to Ukraine than to those who lost everything.
Native Hawaiian Stacey Alapai from Maui admired Biden’s tardiness. She said it wouldn’t be a problem and might rekindle interest in Hawaii.
President Biden addressed local Hawaiians’ rebuilding concerns at a Lahaina holy site blessing. Alapai made it clear that his support had to be implemented.
Emergency help groups feed Maui fire victims thousands of hot meals daily in federally funded housing. Those that departed the island don’t know their future. Hawaii former House member Kaniela Ing wants to prevent temporary dwellings from becoming camps. He aims to end foreclosures, help renters and homeowners pay their mortgages, and free small companies from debt.
Ing thinks the government must spend. Dr. John Vaz, who leads the Community Clinic of Maui, now recognizes a lot of support, but he wants long-term solutions.
Vaz recalls being afraid and worried the night of the fires. The worst that may happen to his town is discussed.
President Biden says he’s happy but wants to do more. As Maui residents improve, their strength shows their heart.