A FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team at work in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Aug. 14, 2023.

A FEMA Urban Search and Rescue team at work in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Aug. 14, 2023. (Dominick Del Vecchio/FEMA)

Troops from bases in Hawaii have arrived on Maui, where President Joe Biden is expected to visit Monday, to assist at the scene of a deadly wildfire that ravaged the town of Lahaina, according to U.S. Army Pacific.

The death toll from the Aug. 8 wildfire has reached 111, according to The Associated Press.

Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said during a news conference Wednesday on Maui that only 38% of the affected area had been searched, he said, but another 10 dog teams and 225 people are joining the effort.

“Know that our hearts are with every family,” Green said during the livestreamed news conference.

Biden and first lady Jill Biden expect to “see firsthand the impacts of the wildfire” that destroyed about 2,200 buildings and burned more than 2,000 acres, the White House announced Wednesday. The two are scheduled to meet with survivors, first responders and government officials, according to the announcement. 

Gen. Charles Flynn, commander of U.S. Army Pacific, returned to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday after visiting Lahaina on Tuesday.

Flynn’s command, headquartered at Fort Shafter, Oahu, is coordinating the Defense Department’s response alongside the Federal Emergency Management Agency and remains committed to the “full support” of Hawaii and Maui, Flynn said.

“My sincere and deepest condolences go out to the people of Maui who have lost loved ones. Words cannot fully express the anguish of seeing the charred ruins of Lahaina,” he told Stars and Stripes in an email from the command on Thursday.

The Army Corps of Engineers is providing power generators and assessing debris removal, and the 25th Infantry Division, from Schofield Barracks, on Oahu, provided aerial firefighting equipment and personnel. 

The Hawaii National Guard thus far has activated more than 250 troops in response to the fire, the Pentagon said in a Wednesday news release. Many were providing security at the fire zone along with Maui police.

Joint Task Force 50, a blended command, is overseeing the military response. It includes Army Reserve and active-duty troops and members of the Hawaii Army and Air National Guard. It’s also synchronizing DOD efforts, U.S. Army Pacific spokesman Jonathan Riley told Stars and Stripes by phone Thursday. 

Joint Task Force 50 is typically activated for emergency response scenarios like natural disasters and allows its commander — currently Army. Brig. Gen. Stephen Logan — to command the National Guard and active-duty troops, Riley said. 

“[Joint Task Force 50] standing up is this element that pulls all that military support together,” he said. “It makes it seamless from an operational perspective.”

Around 25 active-duty troops are part of the task force, but he couldn’t immediately say how many active-duty troops in total responded to the fire aftermath. 

Other elements from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard are also on scene, including two Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, a Coast Guard 45-foot response boat and a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, Pentagon spokesman Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Aug. 10. 

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Alex Wilson covers the U.S. Navy and other services from Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Originally from Knoxville, Tenn., he holds a journalism degree from the University of North Florida. He previously covered crime and the military in Key West, Fla., and business in Jacksonville, Fla.

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