By: Rajini KG
September 4 2023
The claim is unsubstantiated. There is visual proof that even blue objects were burnt down and some that weren't blue survived the fire.
What is the claim?
The devastating wildfires that ripped through the town of Lahaina on the west coast of Maui island in Hawaii (spelled Hawai'i locally) on August 8, 2023, led to a surge in misinformation about the cause of the fire.
A narrative that has become widely popular in the past few days claims that all blue-colored items survived the fire, implying that the fire was started by a “direct energy weapon.”
Users shared videos from Maui showing “untouched” blue things – umbrellas, cars, buildings – to further the claim. A user on X wrote, “You'll Never Guess What DIDN'T BURN In The Lahaina, Maui Hawaii Fires!! Everything Blue Is UNTOUCHED! Conspiracy Theorists Are NEVER Wrong. DEWs, Direct Energy Weapons." The post garnered 1,400,000 views and 27,100 likes at the time of writing this story. The archive of the post can be found here.
Some users shared a screenshot of an article that carried American talk show host Oprah Winfrey’s picture next to a blue house. The headline read, “Why the Heck are Celebs All Painting Their Maui Properties the Same Weird Shade of Blue?” The archive of the post can be found here.
Screengrabs of viral claims online (Source: X/Screenshots)
However, this narrative is false, and there is ample footage to prove that even blue things were reduced to rubble.
What we found
We went through satellite images and news footage and found several instances where blue-colored items were burned to the ground due to the fire in Maui.
For example, the blue tarpaulin-like sheet at Lahaina harbor was burnt in the wildfire. We compared the Google Street View of Lahaina harbor to an image of the harbor after the wildfire, which was published by the Associated Press.
L: Image showing a blue tarpaulin-like cloth before the fire; R: Image showing the blue cloth completely burnt.
(Source: Google Maps/AP/Modified by Logically Facts)
We also found homes with blue-colored roofs at the Puunoa Beach Estates in Lahaina and homes on Lahainaluna Road, Lahaina Town, burnt in the fire.
A satellite view of Puunoa Beach Estates with blue-colored roofs in Lahaina before and after the fire.
(Source: Google Earth Pro/Google Earth)
A satellite view of blue-roofed buildings in Lahainaluna road, Lahaina town, before and after the wildfire.
(Source: Google Earth Pro/ Google Maps)
Speaking to Logically Facts, Director of the Laser Physics and Photonics Devices Labs at the University of South Australia, David Lancaster, said, “There are certainly no common paints that will provide enhanced protection from a laser.”
“If the target material has any paint or coloring, it will vaporize quickly, and metals will reflect most of the light, but wood and plastics will absorb more,” he said, adding that if there are any counter-measure surfaces that are resistant to such lasers, “they will be high tech advanced composite materials (that only currently exist in labs).”
Why did some structures survive?
Interestingly, we found the story of a red house that was left unscathed by the fire while the rest of the neighborhood turned to ash. Speaking to NPR, the house owner, Trip Millikin, said that it was possible due to the commercial-grade corrugated metal roof they installed during a recent restoration project. Had it been a “laser beam attack,” as claimed, then the house should not have survived.
The house with a red roof that survived the wildfire at in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Source: Google Maps)
Additionally, an image of the aftermath of the wildfire, published by Getty Images published on August 17, 2023, shows three homes with brown, teal, and red roofs that survived the fire in Maui. The houses are located on Kahako Street in Lahaina, Maui.
Satellite view of houses with brown, teal, and red roofs that survived the wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii. (Source: Google Maps)
Stressing on the reason behind why some structures or homes survived, Arnaud Trouvé, professor, chair, and director of graduate studies in the Department of Fire Protection Engineering at the University of Maryland, said, “There is enough variability in the exposure conditions of fuel elements to fire and in their response to explain the occasional absence of damage of particular features in an urban area after the passage of a fire. There is no reason for these features to share the same blue color. This looks to me like an anecdotal observation rather than an explanation.”
What about the Oprah Winfrey article?
Well, the article is edited.
The original article was published on AD Pro, a website of Architectural Digest magazine. It was titled, "These Are the Top 5 Interior Design Trends of 2022 So Far" with the subhead "From the yen for natural materials to comfort-first interiors, here are the top design trends of the year." The article does not contain any text about celebrities owning blue-roofed houses in Hawaii.
A reverse image search showed us that the image of the blue house used in the viral article was first published on Hawaii House, a real estate website. According to a website that lists sale deeds and transfer documents of properties in the County of Maui in Hawaii, the property in the picture is registered to ‘Legerton, Jerome A Trust’.
Comparison of a screengrab of the viral fake article and Original article by Mikki Brammer and Elizabeth Fazzare
(Source: X/@tkgagnon, Architectural Digest)
The conspiratorial claim that laser beams or DEWs caused the wildfires in Hawaii has been linked to ‘Project Blue Beam’ – started by Canadian conspiracy theorist Serge Monast in 1990s – and propagated with the claim that the fires were a conspiracy of the wealthiest people.
The theory alleges that organizations, including NASA and the United Nations, were working together on a covert operation to establish a ‘New World Order’ to take control of the world.
It is to be noted that the cause of the fire is yet to be determined officially. However, it is suspected that the fire started because of a downed power line.
The claims that no blue objects were touched/burnt during the Maui fires are unsubstantiated. There is no evidence to back this claim.