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AP Exclusive: 911 calls from deadly Lahaina wildfire reveal terror and panic in the rush to escape
Hawaii's Maui County has released audio of 911 calls made during a deadly August wildfire in response to a public records request from The Associated Press
LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Trapped in their cars, in homes or on the beach as flames, black smoke and embers swirled around them, people in the historic Maui town of Lahaina called 911, the one number that might send help or tell them what to do, where to go.
A man sprayed water on his house as homes around him burned: “I don’t know if we can get out,” he reported. A family huddled in a fireplace, reluctant to leave without their frightened dog, as smoke alarms beeped incessantly. “I cannot get out of my door — there’s flames blowing into the house!” another woman pleaded. “I have a baby.”
The responses from dispatchers, captured in audio recordings provided to The Associated Press through a public records request, reflect how quickly the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century overtook the town — and how challenging it was for overwhelmed officials to keep up with the chaos.
Inundated with calls, and with police and firefighters all occupied, the dispatchers became increasingly powerless to render help, resorting to offering advice like “Leave if you have to leave” and assuring callers that responders were in the area.