Satellite phone SAVED LIVES during the devastating Maui wildfire
01/17/2024 // Richard Brown // Views

Mark Boettger, the director of Safety and Security at Marriott Maui Ocean Club, faced a critical test of his responsibilities on August 8 last year when a wildfire devastated Lahaina.

Amid the crisis, Boettger took decisive action, instructing individuals at the resort to shelter in place and advising neighboring hotels to do the same, preventing up to 14,000 people from venturing onto the dangerous roads. His quick decision-making undoubtedly saved lives.

Amid the chaos, Boettger utilized a satellite phone to provide crucial updates to Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke, who was acting as governor that day, and communicated with Maui County’s Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). His efforts were particularly significant as the raging flames had destroyed cell tower infrastructure, making consistent communication with the outside world a significant challenge.

The Marriott Maui Ocean Club was near the advancing fire, leaving Boettger and others cut off from essential services. The situation was exacerbated by power outages, lack of TV and radio access and the near failure of cell phones.

Boettger vividly recalls the uncertainty that prevailed. "Cars couldn’t leave. Cars couldn’t come back. We were completely cut off. No power, no TV, no radio. Cell phones all but failed at about 3:30 p.m.," he said. Fortunately they have a satellite phone.

Reflecting on the harrowing experience four months later, Boettger emphasized the necessity for collaborative efforts between the government and the private sector in preparing for future emergencies. Despite his extensive experience managing volatility from his 25-year law enforcement career, he acknowledged that nothing compares to the horror of witnessing a massive wildfire approaching Lahaina’s resort area without clear official guidance on evacuation routes.

Boettger also pointed out the challenges faced by Maui County's Emergency Management Agency during the crisis. "What I could hear on the phone from them [MEMA], I think they were inundated," he said.

Deadliest U.S. wildfire in over 100 years

Last year's Maui wildfire stands as the deadliest U.S. wildfire since 1918, when the Cloquet Fire in northern Minnesota claimed 453 lives, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The most fatal wildfire in U.S. history occurred in 1871 in Wisconsin, known as the Peshtigo fire, which claimed 1,152 lives.

This tragic event, which claimed over a hundred lives, surpasses the toll of any disaster on the islands since a tsunami took 61 lives in 1960, a year after Hawaii became a U.S. state. (Related: Maui wildfires continue to expose government’s FAILURES and QUESTIONABLE decisions.)

The Lahaina fire also caused destruction or damage to over 2,200 buildings, with 86 percent being residential structures, as per assessments by the University of Hawaii's Pacific Disaster Center (PDC) and Maui Emergency Management Agency. Rebuilding Lahaina is estimated to cost $5.5 billion, with FEMA approving over $7 million in assistance to over 2,200 households.

Wildfire damages are escalating in the U.S., totaling $29 billion in 2018, with 18 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disaster events in 2022, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The economic fallout from the wildfires is expected to impact tourism, a cornerstone of Maui's economy, constituting 40 percent of it.

Concerns have been raised by Maui residents about the adequacy of alert systems. Witnesses reported minimal warning, with sirens, designed to alert of impending disasters, remaining silent. Power and cellular outages further hindered communication and alerts. Hawaii Governor Josh Green has committed to investigating the emergency response and notification systems.

Watch this report about what really happened in Maui.

This video is from the GalacticStorm channel on

More related stories:

Maui wildfires: Lawsuit accuses Hawaiian Electric of negligence resulting in wrongful deaths, severe injuries and damages to property.

LAND GRAB: Hawaii government to confiscate lands burned by deadly Maui wildfires.

Behind secrecy barriers, EPA begins removal of toxic materials in areas devastated by Maui wildfires.

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