Disobeying the authorities saved their lives

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Trust the experts they say.

The government has your best interests at heart.

Don’t think for yourself, we keep being told.

Yeah, well, the AP says what those of us who have been following the Lahaina wildfire already knew: the people who obeyed the authorities died, and those who said “Screw that!” survived.

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This story confirms what I have been writing for a few days. Not because I am a particularly astute journalist–everything I have reported has been publicly available, either through various news stories, blog posts, or videos on Twitter.

I just have no faith left in the authorities, so when they spewed out their BS about how hard they worked to save lives and how they did everything they could, but Gaia was too angry at some SUV to placate, I knew they were lying.

As flames tore through a West Maui neighborhood, car after car of fleeing residents headed for the only paved road out of town in a desperate race for safety.

And car after car was turned back toward the rapidly spreading wildfire by a barricade blocking access to Highway 30.

One family swerved around the barricade and was safe in a nearby town 48 minutes later, another drove their 4-wheel-drive car down a dirt road to escape. One man took an dirt road uphill, climbing above the fire and watching as Lahaina burned. He later picked his way through the flames, smoke and rubble to pull survivors to safety.

But dozens of others found themselves caught in a hellscape, their cars jammed together on a narrow road, surrounded by flames on three sides and the rocky ocean waves on the fourth. Some died in their cars, while others tried to run for safety.

The police blockaded the only way out. The only people to survive there were the people who were smart enough to realize that the authorities had no idea what they were doing.

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I don’t think for a second that those police officers manning the barricade wanted people to die. They surely didn’t. They thought they were helping because they thought their bosses knew what they were doing. They were told to block the road, so they blocked the road. End of story.

The people up the chain didn’t know what they were doing. They were fakin’ it until they were makin’ it, only what they were making was a tragedy of truly epic proportions. Nobody knows how many people died, but the number is in the hundreds. There is a reason why they won’t admit to having an idea of the number: it is too horrific to admit.

When Baird and his family turn south to drive out of town, the way is blocked by cones and a crew working on downed electric poles. The workers were motioning for everyone to turn back toward Lahaina.

They decide they don’t care what the crew wants, swerving around the cones and heading south. They make it to a neighboring town by 4:18 p.m. and begin texting people to see who else has made it out.

“Nobody realized how little time we really had,” Baird said. “Like even us being from the heart of the fire, we did not comprehend. Like we literally had minutes and one wrong turn. We would all be dead right now.”

Jonelle Santos said her daughter, Ronelle Santos-Adrian, managed to escape her Lahaina affordable housing apartment with her 3-year-old daughter and partner by turning their four-wheel-drive vehicle away from the standstill traffic and onto a dirt road, eventually finding their way to a friend’s house in Napili. Some of the other people who lived in the apartment complex didn’t have cars, Santos said, and her daughter thinks some of them didn’t make it out.

Kim Cuevas-Reyes narrowly escapes with her 12- and 15-year-old by ignoring instructions to turn right on Front Street toward Lahaina’s Civic Center, which earlier in the day had been turned into a shelter for refugees. Instead, she takes a left, driving in the wrong lane to pass a stack of cars heading in the other direction.

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The truth is that nobody knew the right thing to do, and in many ways, the authorities were in a worse position to make rational decisions in an emergency than the people on the ground. Think of the decision not to release the water to fight the fire. The state government official who made the decision to withhold water wasn’t thinking about that particular emergency, but the politics of water use.

Wrong thing to worry about right then. The police officers on the ground? Following orders is generally a good career move, but when the brown stuff hits the fan common sense matters more than “just following orders.”

An old guy with common sense knew what to do. He just ignored the authorities and walked away.

“Gee, that fire looks bad. Gotta go.”

The disaster itself wasn’t the result of some grand conspiracy; it was the result of garden-variety incompetence.

The current ass-covering is a grand conspiracy, but not for some larger purpose. It’s just a bunch of guilty people doing their best to avoid having to pay the price for their failure.

As for the failures of the MSM to adequately cover the disaster–this coverage has been among the worst I have ever seen–I think it is driven by the fact that not one of the people who can be blamed is a Republican, so they have to blame Gaia.

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Why so many people are still willing to follow the diktats of our “leaders” blindly is beyond me. I get being indecisive in the face of contradictory information. A fire is behind you, but the authorities say the road ahead is unsafe. That would freak me out too.

Yet the authorities have proven time and again that they have no clue what they are doing, and your common sense has to kick in at some point. So what if there are downed power lines ahead? There is a frickin’ wildfire rushing up behind you. Push the cops aside and save yourself.

The people who did that survived. Hundreds of others, who put their faith in the authorities did not.

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