Statement on the Wildfire Destruction in Hawaii

The United States national committee of ICOMOS is horrified at the extent of human suffering and the destruction of heritage resulting from the fires in Maui. Our hearts go out to the many people who have lost family and friends in reported numbers that continue to increase. We send our sincere condolences to them. They will be in our thoughts.

Many people are now homeless and sources of income have been lost. The extent of these losses has yet to be calculated because communication is difficult given that electrical and cell services have been disrupted.

The heritage value of one town largely destroyed by the fire, Lahaina, is enormous. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii for decades and contains many sites sacred to Native Hawaiians. The loss to that community is enormous. We must stay alert for opportunities to assist in ways that might be desired. Indeed, it is a terrible loss to the heritage and sense of identity to all citizens in the state of Hawaii and the United States.

If you have been fortunate enough to visit Lahaina, I am sure that you came away with a strong sense of place, the powerful beauty conveyed by historic structures still in original context, some hundreds of years old, the locations sacred to Native Hawaiians, and the setting along a beautiful coastline. So many of those structures are gone or severely damaged. We should ask ourselves, what can be done to salvage as much of that as possible?

As we consider this, there are ways to assist the people who are struggling with threats to health and safety. Here are those suggested by The Washington Post

and the Hawaii News

We have also received offers of assistance from the ICOMOS ICORP Crisis Monitoring Working Group regarding assistance with heritage damage.

Our ICOMOS-USA Board of Trustees member Athline Clark, who resides in Hawaii, will be working with the community that is on the ground there to identify what assistance is needed. ICOMOS-USA member William Chapman, Dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, has long been engaged with the Lahaina Restoration Foundation and will be our point of contact with them.

Our role will be to provide support based on the needs identified by the Maui community and to work with our members and colleagues to compile a comprehensive list of the resources that we could offer and bring to the table.

Again, we send our condolences to the Lahaina community and all those in Maui who have been affected by the fires. We pledge to do what we can to alleviate the suffering and sense of loss in the days ahead.

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