How Is Maui’s Air Quality After the Wildfires?

A month after the devastation, people are living amid potentially dangerous air quality. Here are the precautions you should take.


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This story is part of our HONOLULU series, “We Have Questions,” with our editorial team tackling questions being asked in the aftermath of the recent Maui fires.





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Aerial photo of Lahaina’s devastated waterfront on Aug. 11, 2023. Photo: Courtesy of Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources


In the aftermath of the wildfires that raged through Lahaina, concerns have been raised about air quality. We spoke to the Hawai‘i State Department of Health’s Clean Air Branch to address these issues. Here’s how those of you who are venturing to Lahaina or live nearby can protect your health.


What is the air quality like in Lahaina?

The Department of Health (DOH) announced a Smoke and Dust Advisory on Aug. 9 for Maui and Hawai‘i Island because of the brush fires and high winds. The advisory remains in effect for areas affected by brushfires and their smoke, ash and dust.


On Aug. 22, the DOH released Lahaina air quality data via three monitoring sites in the town. While the sensors in Lahaina currently say the air quality is good, they measure the air quality in their immediate surroundings. They may not detect disturbances outside of their range. In general, wearing a mask is recommended in the burn zone.


SEE ALSO: What Other Areas of Hawai‘i Are at High Risk for Wildfires?


Is it safe to go into Lahaina?

At this time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is leading cleanup efforts with specialized crews to remove hazardous materials from Lahaina. In the aftermath of the fires, buildings and structures are unstable. Leftover debris and ash may contain toxic contaminants and chemicals that can cause health issues, especially for children, pregnant people and those with pre-existing respiratory conditions. Therefore, it is not recommended to enter the burn zone until the area is cleared. But if you do go in, read the DOH’s flyer “Protect Yourself from Debris Hazards” first.


Should you wear a mask in Lahaina?

If you live or work near Lahaina and risk exposure to ash, the DOH recommends wearing a snug-fitting face mask, goggles, gloves and clothing and shoes that cover your skin. A NIOSH or N95 respirator mask will offer the best protection. Also, shower after being exposed to ash.


What kinds of symptoms might you experience after prolonged exposure to smoke and dust?

The fine particles of smoke or dust can cause issues like burning eyes, breathing problems, coughing and runny nose. Those with chronic heart or lung diseases are particularly vulnerable to serious illness after exposure. If you experience nausea and/or respiratory issues, seek medical attention.


SEE ALSO: Is the Water on Maui Safe After the Fires?


How can you protect yourself from smoke and dust resulting from the Maui wildfires?

Even if you’re healthy, the best way to protect yourself is to reduce smoke exposure. Avoid going outside or limit your time outdoors when the air quality is low. has resources on how to keep your indoor space clean and cool. The DOH also has more guidelines on how to stay safe during the Smoke and Dust Advisory.


Using an air purifier indoors can also help filter your air while the Smoke and Dust advisory remains in effect. Here’s a DIY tutorial on how to build a Corsi-Rosenthal Box air filter, a cost-effective alternative to an air purifier.