MPD chief: After-action report will spotlight ‘unsung heroes’ in Lahaina wildfire

For the first time since the deadly fire, Maui’s Police Chief John Pelletier appeared before the police commission Wednesday.
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 8:27 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 21, 2023 at 1:08 PM HST

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time since the deadly Lahaina fire, Maui’s police chief appeared before the police commission on Wednesday to discuss the department’s wildfire response.

Chief John Pelletier told the police commission that despite fears of looting and mayhem in the weeks after the fires, Maui’s crime rates actually dropped.

He said violent crime was down approximately 22% in August and property crime dropped 27%.

Pelletier also previewed MPD’s internal review — also known as an after-action report — on what the department did right and wrong during the Aug. 8 fires.

It’s expected to be released in the next two years.

He emphasized there were “countless unsung heroes” the day of the fires.

Sgt. Chase Bell showed commissioners an overview of the incidents unfolding on Aug. 8. with videos that revealed what conditions were like for officers in Lahaina with downed power lines scattered across several roads. Bell said officers did their very best to save as many people as they could that day.

“People left because we were on our PAs and blow horns going up and down those neighborhoods. That saved lives,” Pelletier told the commission.

“We’ll never know how many, but it’s countless. We broke down gates to get people out. They literally used their bodies as rams and threw themselves against the gates to break them down.”

Pelletier said they have a good chance at identifying all of the victims, which is extremely rare in mass disasters such as this one.

“Two weeks ago, I could not tell you that there’s a chance that we would be able to identify everyone,” Pelletier said.

“And that is the goal: Leave no one behind, reunite every single one of our lost loves ones with their families and give them that closure and give them that peace.”

Pelletier said dispatchers took over 4,500 calls the day of the fire — that’s almost triple the amount of calls on a normal day.

“Off of a tragedy that has occurred, I couldn’t be more proud to see that things were taken cared of as best as they could,” Maui Police Commissioner Bill Richardson said.

Pelletier told the commission the department is taking the mental well-being of their officers very seriously, and they are even talking about creating a permanent wellness unit.