It is feared that many of the dead are children who were home alone as schools were closed due to power outages. Residents greeted the president with vitriol and anger. The administration's response to the fires was criticized for being lackluster at best.
During a speech in which he was decked out with leis, Biden compared the fires of Maui, which destroyed 2,200 homes, displaced nearly 5,000 and has a rising death toll, to a small kitchen fire he once had. "I don't want to compare difficulties," he said, "but we have a little sense, Jill and I, of what it's like to lose a home. Years ago, now 15 years ago, I was in Washington, doing Meet the Press.
"A sunny Sunday, and lightning struck at home on a little lake that's outside of our home, not a lake a big pond. And hit a wire that came up underneath our home that hit the heating duct, an air conditioning duct. To make a long story short, I almost lost my wife, my '67 Corvette, and my cat.
"All kidding aside, I watched the firefighters, the way they responded. There's an old expression, I grew up right across the street from a fire hall, Claymont, Delaware. And the expression is 'God made man, and then he made a few firefighters.' You're all crazy, thank God. The only people who run into flames to help other people.
"And they ran into the flames, saved my wife, saved my family. No joke," he said. He went on to say that they were displaced from their home for half a year and he can "only imagine" what it's like to lose a home.
Those in Lahaina lost far more than their homes, they lost their children, families, and may lose their land as well. Some families were found huddled together, burned to death in cars as they tried to flee. A mother recounted finding her 14-year-old son burned to death in the remains of their home, clutching the dead family dog.
This isn't the first time Biden has recounted the story of the fire in his home, however, and previous facts paint a different picture. In November 2021, he falsely mentioned his house burning down with his wife inside the house before correcting himself. Even farther back, in 2013, he stated that a fire had "devastated a significant portion" of his New Hampshire home.
Still farther back, in 2004, the AP reported that the Biden home was struck by lighting which caused a "small fire that was contained to the kitchen." In that telling, firefighters had been able to get the blaze under control within 20 minutes, and the fire did not spread beyond the kitchen.
"More than a thousand are unaccounted for, about 1,050," Hawaii Governor Josh Green told Face the Nation on Sunday after wildfires ripped through the island of Maui, devastating the town of Lahaina.
"It's going to take several weeks still," he said, "some of the challenges are going to be extraordinary." The recovery efforts will take weeks, and it's clear that many people will not be found at all due to the extent of the destruction.
"We do have extreme concerns that because of the temperature of the fire," Green said, "the remains of those who have died, in some cases, may be impossible to recover meaningfully. So there are going to be people that are lost forever. And right now we're working obviously, with the FBI and everyone on the ground to make sure that we do what we can to assess who's missing."
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