The fires that have broken out in Maui are confirmed to be the deadliest in the United States in over a century. Over 96 lives have been lost, with the number continuing to climb. Hundreds more are missing or injured, and thousands are left homeless without any meaningful government assistance.
The devastation demonstrates the culpability of both Republican and Democratic governments over time, at the expense of the lives of the people and the environment. This is due to the conscious inadequacy of prevention measures, the understaffing and underfunding of infrastructure and fire departments. The Biden administration has made a commotion about the need to modernize infrastructure due to the climate crisis. However, this interest will only line the pockets of a few monopolies rather than prioritizing fire prevention and protection.
The U.S. is widely regarded as the leading capitalist force globally, with enormous technological capabilities. Despite this, the people of Maui were left isolated in the face of the absence of necessary fire protection mechanisms because these measures are considered a cost to the state. This has led to a disaster that claimed human lives. According to the figures, the Maui Fire Department had only 65 firefighters, 13 fire engines, and 2 cranes. All the equipment and vehicles were suitable for extinguishing urban fires, not forest fires. Furthermore, there was no early warning, the sirens did not work, and messages via radio stations or cell phones were ineffective due to extensive damage to the electricity and telecommunications infrastructure.
Ongoing inquiries into the origins of the catastrophic fires suggest that “Hawaiian Electric,” the electric company, could be at fault, given the potential that damaged power lines might have generated the sparks.
The island’s residents now face a shortage of water due to the prioritization of business interests and plans. This criminal deficiency is under the responsibility of the Hawaiian government and local authorities of Maui. It highlights that the lives and basic needs of the people are not a priority of the bourgeois state. This is because it is a state based on the logic of capital: cost-benefit and land-commodity, which ultimately serves the needs of a few business groups and not the majority.
It is necessary for all workers and people to participate together in organized struggle and collective demands to prevent a recurrence of this tragedy and to protect the island’s forests and prevent companies from capitalizing on the burned areas. It is crucial to halt government plans that promote the complete transfer of management of the affected areas to private investors, allegedly in the name of “saving” it.
The responsibility to rescue their towns and forests and to counteract the schemes to privatize the scorched lands rests solely with the island’s residents. It is only through collective action that they can press for complete and unconditional 100% compensation for all victims affected by the fires.