In early August 2023, deadly wildfires swept through the Hawaiian island of Maui; one of the most upvoted posts on Reddit’s r/all featured a circulating image of the devastation:
As of August 11 2023, the Maui fires remained a developing news story. A Wikipedia entry about the 2023 fires in Maui provided a general overview of their scope:
In early August 2023, a series of wildfires broke out in the U.S. state of Hawai’i[,] affecting the islands of Maui and to a lesser extent Hawai’i (colloquially known as the Big Island). The wind-driven fires prompted evacuations, caused widespread damage, and killed at least 55 people in the town of Lahaina on Maui. The proliferation of the wildfires was attributed to dry, gusty conditions created by a strong high-pressure area north of Hawaiʻi and Hurricane Dora to the south.
An emergency declaration was signed on August 8 , authorizing several actions, including activation of the Hawai’i National Guard, appropriate actions by the director of the Hawai’i Emergency Management Agency and the Administrator of Emergency Management, and the expenditure of state general revenue funds for relief of conditions created by the fires. By August 9 , the state government of Hawai’i issued a state of emergency for the entirety of the state. On August 10 , U.S. president Joe Biden issued a federal major disaster declaration.
An August 10 2023 post to Reddit’s r/environment linked to a Vox.com explainer:
Vox.com described how the cumulative effects of climate change exacerbated the devastation where wildfires were “once rare”:
Wildfires were once rare in Hawaii, largely ignited by volcanic eruptions and dry lightning strikes, but human activity in recent decades has made them more common and extreme. The average area burned each year in wildfires, which tend to start in grasslands, has increased roughly 400 percent in the last century, according to the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, a nonprofit group.
Part of the problem is that climate change is making Hawaii drier, so it’s more likely to ignite when there’s an ignition event (most Hawaii wildfires are sparked by humans, though the source of the current blazes is unknown). The spread of highly flammable invasive grasses is also to blame. Native to the African savanna, guinea grass and fountain grass, for example, now cover a huge portion of Hawaii, and they provide fuel for wildfires, as Cynthia Wessendorf has written in Hawaii Business Magazine.
On August 9 2023, climate activist Edgar McGregor shared TikTok video of the Maui fires to Twitter in the context of climate change:
A newly unreliable Twitter.com compounded the severity of the situation — although Twitter had at one point freely acknowledged its own role in “disaster communications” as recently as October 2022. In a blog post published that month, the social platform noted:
Over the years, Twitter has become a critical communication tool for responding to natural disasters.
Our teams have a longstanding commitment to working alongside global partners and developers to share important information, provide real-time updates, facilitate relief efforts, and much more. We also take steps to address misleading information that can surface during these crises.
To help ensure our service remains a resource for as many people as possible, we’ve put together a snapshot of some of the ways Twitter can be used to help during natural disasters.
On July 25 2023, Reuters.com published “Twitter not suited for emergency communications, Dutch say after storm,” referencing an incident in the Netherlands that month. The outlet reached out to Twitter for information, and said:
Twitter’s communication account did not immediately respond to questions [about disaster communications on the platform]. An email to Twitter’s press email address generated an automatic poop emoji reply, in line with an announcement earlier this year by its boss Elon Musk.
In July 2023, the San Francisco Chronicle‘s “Twitter is ‘potentially dying.’ What does that mean for California’s disaster response?” cited an instance during which disaster communications in California were impeded due to abruptly imposed “rate limiting”:
During California’s early-July  heat wave, some Bay Area residents searching Twitter for updates from the National Weather Service were met with a confounding message. Timelines read: “Rate limit exceeded: please wait a few moments and try again.”
That day, Twitter owner and former CEO Elon Musk blocked users with unverified accounts from viewing more than 600 posts per day. Since then changes have mounted. As of [July 15 2023], embedded twitter feeds on official websites were not working, including agencies like the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management.
When floods, fires and heat waves strike California, Twitter serves as a useful platform for experts and officials to provide the public with real-time information. But with new limitations on the app and shake ups on the horizon, officials and experts are concerned about the future of emergency communications.
On August 11 2023, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tweeted information about federal disaster assistance available to Maui residents:
In an August 11 2023 report, CBS News identified ways to help people affected by the Maui fires, including donations to specific charities:
The Hawai’i Community Foundation
The Hawai’i Community Foundation is accepting donations through its Maui Strong Fund. The foundation has already raised $1 million to help fire victims, Hawaii News Now reports. To donate, visit the fund’s website. For questions or additional information, please contact Donor Services at [email protected] or (808) 566-5560.
Maui United Way
Maui United Way, founded in 1945, works to address Maui’s vital needs by focusing on education, income and health. The organization has set up a Maui Fire and Disaster Relief Donations Page. All donations are processed online.
Associated Press offered more generalized information for individuals who wished to help:
Philanthropy experts recommend giving to experienced organizations that are well-situated to respond to a specific disaster. Major disaster response organizations like the American Red Cross have said they are already communicating with local and federal governments to provide assistance.
[Regine Webster, vice president of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy] also urged potential donors to support organizations with deep local ties and knowledge of the effected communities.
Hawaii’s KITV provided the most extensive list of charitable endeavors:
The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement is partnering with Alakaʻina Foundation Family of Companies and Kākoʻo Haleakalā to match up to $100,000 in community donations for ʻohana impacted by the wildfires. Visit Hawaiiancouncil.org/maui to give.
Finally, fundraising site GoFundMe created a “centralized hub” of Maui fires campaigns here. The hub hosted no fewer than ten pages of campaigns related to the Hawaii wildfires.
In early August 2023, the Hawaiian island of Maui was affected by severe and devastating wildfires, brought on by climate change-related factors like hotter, drier weather and invasive vegetation. Organizations like the Red Cross accepted donations, and dozens of GoFundMe campaigns were available to anyone wishing to help the residents of Maui.