Projected number of wildfire deaths remains elusive with over 1,000 still missing

Leaders are pleading with the public to help them verify people on the missing persons list
Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 1:04 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 23, 2023 at 11:03 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The FBI says the list of those who remain unaccounted for following the Lahaina wildfire stands between 1,000 to 1,100, two weeks after flames tore through the town, and the county will soon release the names of the missing in hopes of finding some alive.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen acknowledged the task of tracking down the unaccounted for is daunting — and increasingly desperate for family members.

He added that information provided to authorities has been incomplete. Some of those unaccounted for are listed with first names only. Others have no identifying details, such as gender or age. The list also includes no identified minors even though children are among the victims.

Given that, Bissen said, authorities don’t yet have a projection of the final death toll.

As of Tuesday, there were 115 people confirmed killed in the flames.

Gov. Josh Green has said that given the incredible intensity of the blaze — which reached temperatures of up to 2,000 degrees in some places — and the scope of destruction, it is likely some remains will never be recovered, especially in larger buildings that have been reduced to ash.

At the news conference Tuesday, Maui Police Chef John Pelletier echoed that grim conclusion, saying while recovery teams with cadaver dogs continue to scour Lahaina town, “realistically, we’re going to have a number of confirmed, we’re going to have a number of presumed.”

One reason for that is simply the ferocity of the wildfire. Entire multi-story buildings were reduced to flattened piles of debris. “We have an entire town that’s destroyed,” Pelletier said.

He added that the county plans to release the list of those still missing in the coming days — once it’s more thoroughly “scrubbed” and vetted by multiple agencies collecting data.

Officials are asking the public for their patience.

“We want to make sure we’re as respectful as we can,” he said.

Special Section: Those We Lost in Lahaina

Kiha Kaina says his dad, Joseph “Lomsey” Lara, is among the missing.

Kaina said someone took a photo of his father’s 2003 Ford Ranger as thousands attempted to evacuate from Lahaina. Someone subsequently told him his father’s burned-out vehicle was found charred near the Lahaina outlet mall, but Kaina hasn’t been able to see it for himself.

Kaina says he doesn’t believe his dad is still alive, but he did provide a DNA sample to authorities and he’s waiting for a call. “As my family members started to show up here and there, we all assumed that everybody was slowly start showing up,” said Kaina, a bartender on Maui.

“Everybody hopes for the best, you know what I mean? But think my dad’s not showing up.”

Several specialized teams are assisting with identifying remains based on DNA, and officials on Tuesday once again put out a plea for family members of the missing to provide samples of DNA to help with that effort. So far, there have been just 104 reference DNA samples collected.

“That’s lower than what we have seen in other disasters,” said Maui Prosecuting Attorney Andrew Martin, who is overseeing the Family Assistance Center at the Hyatt Regency’s Monarch ballroom in Kaanapali, where loved ones can provide details on missing loved ones and those DNA samples.

The FBI says the list of those who remain unaccounted for following the Lahaina wildfire stands at about 1,100

Officials stressed the DNA samples will only be used to assist with identifying remains.

As the work to determine how many are actually missing continues, so too does the search for remains in Lahaina town. This week, hundreds of recovery personnel finished searching one-story structures in the fire-ravaged community and turned their attention to multi-story ones.

“There is some hope — not the amount of hope we would want,” Green told HNN’s Sunrise on Tuesday. “We know there are going to be tragedies in the buildings that haven’t yet been searched.”

Anyone who is interested in submitting an official report on someone who is still unaccounted for following the wildfire disaster is asked to contact the Maui Police Department at

The county said if you reported an individual as unaccounted for and have since made contact with that person(s), you are urged to contact the FBI at (808) 566-4300 or, so that they can be removed from the list of people who are still unaccounted for.

Immediate family members of someone who has been reported unaccounted for is asked to go to the Family Assistance Center (Hyatt Regency’s Monarchy Ballroom, located at 200 Nohea Kai Dr., Lahaina, HI 96761) between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily to submit a DNA sample.

For those living outside of Maui, including on one of the neighbor islands or on the continental U.S., contact the FBI at (808) 566-4300 or