Hawaii, theories about the homes of VIPs “rescued” from the fire

The recent fires in Hawaii, the deadliest in the history of the archipelago, continue to breed disinformation. In particular, a significant portion of netizens do not believe that the destruction was a natural disaster, and have begun to develop a long series of conspiracy theories about what happened. After the story that mysterious laser beams caused the fires, the conspiracy spreads online over a photo of a red house apparently intact under the rubble, and then continues with speculation about the homes of VIPs.

For those in a hurry:

  • Just as there is an explanation for the fact that the red-roofed house in the photo that went viral suffered little damage from the fires.
  • The fact that several dignitaries bought property in the affected area does not appear to be related to the disaster, and it is not clear why they started the fire.
  • Some of them suffered themselves, others made donations, and some (like Oprah Winfrey) personally came to the scene to help.


“Very strange things are happening on Maui, a Hawaiian island in the central Pacific Ocean… The mainstream is clearly talking about fires caused by global warming. Someone dares and raises a malicious cause instead. But in both cases, the scores do not add up. The houses were completely burnt, burnt down, but the surrounding trees remained intact. I didn’t know there were asbestos factories in Hawaii! Seriously, what’s really going on? And above all Cui Prodest? PS: If you’re worried about the villas of VIPs and billionaires in Hawaii, don’t worry, the fire miraculously spared them. The flame knows where it can destroy and where it can’t….». This is the text that can be read in a Facebook post that accompanies an image of a devastating scenario, where, however, an apparently unscathed house and a few trees stand out, which seem to have spared the flames (we talked about this in a previous article).

house with red roof

So, let’s move on to the second point regarding the house, which supposedly remained intact despite the fact that everything around it was reduced to ruins. To begin with, as impressive as the image is, it is not at all strange that individual properties manage to survive fires. Consider, for example, the famous yellow house that survived Hurricane Ike in 2018, on the Bolivar Peninsula; the one that weathered the 2019 tornado that hit Ellersley, Georgia; and again the only structure that survived in the area of ​​​​the epicenter of the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945.

The photo that caused a stir over the recent fires is so bizarre it looks like a photomontage, but it’s not. This is evidenced, for example, by a video published on YouTube called DLNR captures new aerial footage of Lahaina wildfire (min 00:36).

Additional confirmation comes from Google Maps satellite imagery, which through cross-validation allows us to determine the exact location of the building: 271 Front Street Lahaina, Hawaii.

The pictures are dated 2019. Since then, the vegetation appears to have been thinned out and the roof repaired. Indeed, today it appears to be red instead of grey, as demonstrated by a more recent satellite image (September 2022):

We see that there are other buildings very close to the burnt earth, but they remained relatively unscathed. In general, this is not the result of some kind of witchcraft: the reason why some houses survived the destruction may be due to many factors. From the metal roof to the fire-resistant outer skin, thanks to the proximity to the ocean and the empty space around. And why not, at least a little luck.

Oprah’s house

Many billionaires and show business stars have chosen Hawaii to buy a vacation home. Starting with Oprah Winfrey, who has been living on the island of Maui for over 15 years. His property includes, writes The newspaper “New York Times, several acres of land in Coola, an area southeast of Lahaina, where firefighting work was underway on Thursday. One of its main properties, mentioned New York TimesThis is Thompson’s ranch, which, according to the maps, is not in the fire areas: the nearest one was at least a few minutes away by car. Here is a geographical comparison with the map provided BBC:

Winfrey has not yet responded to a request for comment. However, he soon began helping the victims of the fire by personally delivering supplies to the Vailuka shelter. Meanwhile, Thompson Ranch’s Facebook page says, “We are very lucky to report that the ranch was unaffected by the fires.”

VIP houses

However, Winfrey is not the only one who bought property on the spot: the portal mauiresources.com offers a list of famous people who inhabit the area. Below is a brief overview of the most famous:

  • Will Smith
  • Willie Nelson
  • Woody Harrelson
  • Owen Wilson
  • Justin Bieber
  • Morgan Freeman
  • Bill Gates
  • Julia Roberts
  • Lady Gaga

According to the accusation of users, it is difficult to come up with a valid reason that could induce them to set fire to it. Bezos, for example, said he would donate $100 million to help victims of the fires on the island of Maui. Mick Fleetwood, drummer for Fleetwood Mac, said in a Facebook post that a restaurant he owned in Lahaina was destroyed. “Maui and the Lahaina community have been my home for decades,” he wrote. “This is a devastating time and many are suffering unimaginable losses.”

Climate and fires

In short, it is not clear why these stars had to secretly unite and set everything on fire. We know the following about the causes of destructive fires: how BBC, Hawaii is no stranger to fires. A number of reasons could have made the latest episodes especially deadly: strong winds from Hurricane Dora tore through the coast, drought, a dry climate that sucks moisture out of vegetation, making it more vulnerable to fire. Scientists estimate that 90 percent of Hawaii receives less rainfall than a century ago, and since 2008 there has been an exceptional drought. BBC:

Climate change is increasing the risk of wildfires around the world as it raises temperatures and makes heatwaves longer and more intense. Dryer vegetation and warmer temperatures mean that once a fire starts, it can spread more easily. The United Nations predicts that the number of extreme wildfires will increase and spread to previously unaffected areas due to climate change and changes in how people use the land.


After explaining the story of the trees “spared” by the flames, there’s an explanation for the fact that the red-roofed house featured in the now viral photo suffered little damage from the fire. As for the celebrity homes, the fact that some of them bought property in the affected area does not appear to be related to the disaster, and it is not clear why they started the fire. Some of them suffered themselves, others made donations, and some (like Oprah Winfrey) personally came to the scene to help.

This article contributes Facebook project to combat fake news and misinformation on their social platforms. Laws Here for more information about our partnership with Facebook.

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