Dave Pauli: “There are always lessons to be learned from these horrific events, but human decision makers need to apply those lessons.”
[Dave Pauli, a member of the Greater Good Charities rescue team, debuted in animal rescue after major disasters following Hurricane Andrew in Florida in 1992, was incident commander at the Lamar-Dixon animal rescue center north of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and has been a first responder in dozens of other disaster situations.]
Thank you, ANIMALS 24-7, as always for your in-depth coverage of everything animal related!
There are always lessons to be learned from these horrific events, but human decision makers need to apply those lessons.
“Waited at least two weeks too long”
In this case, in my opinion, the government was so overwhelmingly protective of preserving the sites for respecting and recovering human remains that they waited at least two weeks too long to approve animal rescue teams to go in.
Animal rescue teams could have gone in, spotted eye-shine, and live trapped cats without stepping into properties or interfering with entombed vehicles.
For clarity: this was the most intense high temperature wildfire site I have ever observed. Fueled by wind, drought-dried vegetation, and a concentration of unnatural fuels from cars and structures, these temperatures, smoke, and toxic fumes did most of their damage in just a few hours.
It is simply amazing that so many cats found a safe place to escape the initial firestorm.
I understand that after any disaster the local mainstream animal agency, like the Maui Humane Society (or the Louisiana SPCA, or any jurisdictional nonprofit organization after Hurricane Katrina) becomes an easy target for criticism for speed of action or for excluding other local rescue agencies.
After the Lahaina wildfire I was not part of the management team, but I watched and listened to those who were. Neither the Maui Humane Society, Greater Good, nor other responders either set the response schedule or attempted to exclude partners, but they did try to ensure that all partners used the same protocols, reporting documents, and pet owner reuniting standards.
I did personally work with members of several local rescue groups and they were outstanding cat advocates.
“Veterinary teams were simply amazing”
Hopefully in this aftermath all the groups can regroup and work to ensure standard response protocols that serve the cats and dogs.
My personal thanks go to the Maui Humane Society veterinary and law enforcement staffers. Those veterinary teams were simply amazing in treating animals who were presented with severe and complex injuries.
I am writing from the Dallas airport, heading back to the prairies of Conata Basin, South Dakota, to resume a prairie dog/ferret restoration project, but my heart and spirit are still in Maui, as there are months of work ahead for the Maui Humane Society and local groups to maximize the potential healing and recovering of the owned and community animals in the Lahaina community.
One final word. The island of Maui is not closed! Only one community was shut down by this horrific fire. The government failed again by advising tourists not to come to Maui. Twenty-nine other communities on Maui rely on tourism to survive. There are hotels available. The restaurants, the stores, the Uber drivers, and the communities need to resume normal commerce.
Or if you can help and not travel, there are dozens of non-profits reaching out there to help victims of the fires, which now include the business community island-wide.
Peter Jose: “Experienced animal rescue teams arrived early on after the Lahaina wildfires, only to find their approval to rescue animals within the burn zone had been overruled.”
[Peter Jose and family are multi-generational Hawaii residents.]
In discussing who should have done what for animals, when, in response to the Lahaina firestorm, the buck stops with Major General Kenneth Hara––especially since Maui emergency chief Herman Andaya resigned on August 17, 2023.
Andaya resigned under intensive criticism for not sounding what turned out to have been poorly maintained emergency sirens that Hawaii Emergency Management Agency spokesperson Ryan Hirae were supposed to have been used in response to a variety of disaster scenarios, including brush fires.
Andaya’s resignation left Hara indisputably in charge of the Lahaina response, as in truth he supposedly was all along.
Hara holds a significant position within the State of Hawaii’s administrative framework.
As the Adjutant General for both the State of Hawaii’s Department of Defense and the National Guard, Hara is stationed in Honolulu.
His responsibilities are vast, encompassing the roles of the executive head of the state’s Department of Defense and the commanding general of the state’s militia.
Didn’t know anyone died until the next day?!
However, despite his access to a vast array of information channels, Hara claimed he was unaware of the fatalities from the fire until the following day.
This assertion was particularly shocking given his dual roles, which place him at the heart of emergency management and defense operations in Hawaii.
In a subsequent interview with Hawaii News Now, Hara conveyed his initial belief that all Lahaina residents had evacuated safely.
It was only later, Hara stated, that he learned of the tragic loss of life. This claim has been met with skepticism from the public, especially considering his central role in emergency response coordination.
Did the National Guard make matters worse?
The situation was further complicated by the deployment of the National Guard to Lahaina during the crisis.
While their primary task was to assist with traffic direction, some critics argue that the presence of the National Guard may have added to the chaos rather than alleviating it.
Further controversy surrounded Hara when he claimed on television that no pets remained in Lahaina after the fire, and that he had “no control” over the situation.
These statements, set against the backdrop of a town reduced to ashes, have intensified public scrutiny.
Observers have also pointed out that while Lahaina was burning and people were trapped in their cars, Hara was allegedly at a cocktail party in Waikiki, drinking and relaxing.
This was evidenced by his smiling and relaxed composure while being interviewed by KHON news in Hawaii at 6:00 p.m., August 8, 2023, more than two hours after Hawaii lieutenant governor Sylvia Luke, as acting governor, issued an emergency proclamation to activate assistance from the National Guard.
This detail has added to the public’s dismay and further questions his leadership during the crisis.
Hawaii governor Josh Green’s decision to appoint Hara to several top positions has also been questioned, with critics challenging the governor’s unwavering support for Hara.
Over-ruled Lahaina mayor on animal rescue
Beyond the fire incident, alarming allegations have emerged against Hara. Hara was scrutinized in legacy and tabloid media after it came to light that he over-ruled the mayor of Maui’s approval as emergency responders of professional animal rescue groups such as the San Diego Humane Society’s Emergency Response team.
They and other experienced animal rescue teams arrived early on after the Lahaina wildfires, only to find their approval to rescue animals within the burn zone had been overruled.
Callers to the mayor’s office were told this was because of Hara in his role as Adjutant General of the National Guard.
As ANIMALS 24-7 reported, cat rescuer Rumi Roms’ personal cat Blondie had AirTags that were pinging for at least four days after the firestorm, showing that Blondie was moving around, but except for a brief time immediately after the fire, when Roms rescued three other cats, she was excluded from retrieving Blondie until approximately three weeks after his death.
Quest for clarity & accountability
Comments on social media platforms, particularly Twitter and Facebook, suggest that Hara has been involved in doxxing individuals who have been critical of his performance.
One such claim was made by a user named Brian, who tweeted about the Hawaii National Guard allegedly obstructing animal rescue groups. Brian’s tweet read, “Adjutant General of Nat. Guard doxxed me and tried to incite violence with a lynch-mob type social media group.”
As the aftermath of the Lahaina fires continues to unfold, the actions and role of Major General Kenneth Hara remain a topic of intense debate and investigation.
The quest for clarity and accountability is ongoing.
In our informed opinion, the authorities after the Lahaina firestorm were so overwhelmingly protective of preserving their own behinds that animals were sacrificed without a second thought.