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Pentagon deploys nearly 700 responders to fight Hawaii wildfires

The Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)
August 21, 2023

As the Maui wildfires continue to ravage Hawaii, roughly 700 Department of Defense personnel and 140 Coast Guard responders have been deployed to Hawaii to prevent the wildfires from continuing to spread.

The deployment of personnel to Hawaii was announced last week by Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder as part of the government’s response to the Maui wildfires that have devastated the city of Lahaina and killed over 100 people.

The military members deployed to Hawaii are working in conjunction with state officials, local Maui officials, and members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

According to the Defense Department, the military is currently executing six missions at the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including providing air and sea transportation for personnel, equipment, and critical supplies. The military has also engaged in aerial fire suppression and has been working to establish support facilities in Hawaii.

READ MORE: Army, Coast Guard, Navy, Nat’l Guard mobilized in Hawaii; 36 dead from wildfires

Additionally, Army Guardsmen are helping with fire suppression by utilizing two CH-47 Chinooks equipped with buckets. Ryder stated, “Of note these Army National Guard aircrews have already dropped more than 189,000 gallons of water in support of firefighting efforts.”  

According to The Hill, the Pentagon has expressed its commitment to help fight the Maui wildfires until the fires are completely extinguished, and cleanup efforts are well underway.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Logan, who is currently serving as the leader of the Maui response operation under Joint Task Force 5-0 under U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, noted that the “combined strength of our military and civilian partners is making a significant impact on the ground.”

“I’m immensely proud of every individual contributing to these efforts,” Logan told reporters Friday. “We will continue to support and aid local, state and federal authorities and partners, ensuring that we offer the best possible support in the days and weeks ahead.”

The joint task force was formed on Aug. 11 and achieved full operational capacity following President Joe Biden’s activation of the U.S. military in response to the Maui wildfires.

Ryder noted the government’s coordinated response efforts, highlighting the work of agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that our U.S. Coast Guard teammates and the Department of Homeland Security are also actively supporting this important effort,” he said. “They’re maintaining the focus of their response on minimizing maritime environmental impact, while also remaining ready to respond to any new reports of people in the water.”