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Devastating Hawaii Wildfires Prompt Response from Amateur Radio Emergency Service


ARRL  The National Association for Amateur Radio® is closely following updates from the Hawaii Amateur Radio Emergency Service®, Hawaii ARES®, as amateur radio operators respond following deadly wildfires on the Hawaiian island of Maui.

On Tuesday, August 8, wildfires, fueled by the strong winds of Hurricane Dora, were burning in Maui and Hawaiʻi Counties. By the next day, much of Lāhainā on Maui had been destroyed.

ARRL Section Manager Jospeh Speroni, AH0A, who serves the Pacific Section including Hawaii and US territories in the Pacific, sent a message to members across the Section on Wednesday. “The suddenness of the Maui Disaster is shocking. It affects us all,” he said. Speroni said it was difficult to know immediately the status of radio amateurs and equipment on Maui, including repeaters and gateways. “Sadly, there are now confirmed deaths and several of our ham friends have lost their homes.”

Speroni reported that the ARRL Hawaii ARES website,, was modified to provide the latest emergency communications news. The website includes updates on Maui’s amateur radio and communication infrastructure, including affected and operational radio systems, repeaters, and other emergency communication details.

“Wildfires have affected phones, internet, and cell services across Maui. VERY Limited Cell contact was established with Lahaina or its ham operators due to burned fiber lines and VERY limited hams in the area,” included one of the updates.

Hawaii has many amateur radio repeaters and an extensive internet-linked repeater system, including KH6COM, a VHF/UHF Maui countywide system with emergency backup power. An update, as of August 11, 2023, shares that the KH6COM repeater system is operational in Central Maui, Haleakala Summit, Lanai, and Molokai. “Repeaters on the Whaler and Kaanapali Beach Hotel lost linking due to fiber optics cables burned. Those in Lahaina can utilize the Pu’u O Hoku Ranch repeater at the East end of Molokai.”

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Hawaii and especially the Island of Maui,” said ARRL Director of Emergency Management Josh Johnston, KE5MHV. “[ARRL] was in initial contact with Section Manager Joe Speroni, AH0A, on Wednesday, August 9, and we have had daily briefs with him. This is an exceedingly challenging time for Hawaii, and we will be available as needed.” ARRL has offered equipment available through ARRL Ham Aid, a program established in 2005 and funded through donations that makes emergency communications equipment available on loan to amateur radio organizations during disaster response when communications equipment is unavailable.

Johnston emphasized that most of amateur radio communications, including any messages being relayed, are being handled on the existing repeater system in the state. On shortwave, HF stations across Hawaii are operating nets on 7.088 MHz.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), on Saturday, August 12, reported that “more than a dozen federal agencies and departments are mobilized to assist state, county, nonprofit and private sector partners to help the people of Hawaii with recent devastating wildfires. Personnel from FEMA, federal agencies and voluntary organizations are arriving daily to Hawaii to support active response and initial recovery efforts.” 

About Amateur Radio and ARRL

Amateur Radio Service licensees use their training, skills, and equipment to practice radio communications and develop radio technology. Amateur Radio Operators volunteer their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in public service and during emergencies. Amateur Radio also provides a basis for hands-on STEM education and pathways to careers.

ARRL  The National Association for Amateur Radio® was founded in 1914 as The American Radio Relay League, and is a noncommercial organization of Radio Amateurs. ARRL numbers within its ranks the vast majority of active Radio Amateurs (or “hams”) in the US and has a proud history of achievement as the standard-bearer in promoting and protecting Amateur Radio. For more information about ARRL and Amateur Radio, visit

About ARES®

Amateur Radio Operators, or “hams,” have a long history of serving their communities when storms or other disasters damage critical communication infrastructure, such as cell phone towers and fiber optic networks. Amateur radio functions completely independently of the internet and phone systems, and a ham radio station can be set up almost anywhere in minutes. Amateurs can quickly raise a wire antenna in a tree or on a mast, connect it to a radio and power source, and communicate effectively with others.

The ARRL Amateur Radio Emergency Service® (ARES® consists of hams who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment with their local ARES leadership for communications duty in the public service when disaster strikes. They use their training, skills, and equipment to prepare for and provide communications during emergencies When All Else Fails®.



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