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Oprah Winfrey discusses her new book on Sept. 12, 2023, in New York. (AP) Oprah Winfrey discusses her new book on Sept. 12, 2023, in New York. (AP)

Oprah Winfrey discusses her new book on Sept. 12, 2023, in New York. (AP)

Loreben Tuquero
By Loreben Tuquero September 15, 2023

No proof of Oprah Winfrey hiring a private firefighting team before Maui wildfires

If Your Time is short

After recent wildfires in Maui killed 115 people, Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson established the "People’s Fund of Maui" to aid the victims’ recovery. But social media users lobbed criticisms against Winfrey, a Maui landowner.

"You’re so concerned about what’s happening in Maui that you somehow managed to hire a private firefighting team to protect your land before the fire started," a woman said in a Sept. 7 Instagram video.

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

A spokesperson for Winfrey told PolitiFact and other outlets the private firefighting claim isn’t true. 

Featured Fact-check

Winfrey has lived in Maui part-time for over 15 years. Maui Now reported that she purchased about 870 acres of agricultural land in the island’s Kula region for $6.6 million in December 2022 and February 2023. She also owns land in Maui’s Haleakalā Ranch and Hāna.

According to Maui County, the Maui wildfires that broke out in August had perimeters in Lahaina, Pulehu-Kihei, Kula and Olinda.

The fact-checking site Verify reported that Maui County Council records show Winfrey owns property on Thompson Road in Kula, several miles away from the fires. Haleakalā and Hāna were far from the fires.

We did not find any government records, news reports of any proof that Winfrey hired a private firefighting team to protect her properties. We rate the claim False.

Our Sources

Instagram post (archived), Sept. 7, 2023

Maui County, Maui wildfire disaster update, Sept. 14, 2023

Oprah Winfrey’s Instagram post, Aug. 31, 2023

Maui Now, Oprah buys 870 acres of land in Kula for nearly $6.6 million over recent months, March 2, 2023

Statement from Oprah Winfrey’s press team, Sept. 14, 2023

Maui wildfire disaster government and community response, Sept. 5, 2023

The New York Times, Oprah and Dwayne Johnson Give $10 Million to Help Maui Wildfire Victims, Aug. 31, 2023

Newsweek, Oprah Winfrey Denies Viral Video's Claims About Her Maui Home, Wildfires, Sept. 11, 2023

Newsweek, Map Shows Oprah's Maui Properties as Hawaii Wildfire Spreads, Aug. 10, 2023

Verify, Celebrity homes were not selectively 'spared' from Maui wildfires, Aug. 22, 2023

Council of the County of Maui Land Use Committee, A bill for an ordinance granting O.W. Ranch LLC an extension of a conditional permit to allow the operation of a twelve-bedroom transient vacation rental and to conduct special events within the county agricultural district for property situated at Tax Map Key No. (2)2-2-001:017 (POR.), 1373 Thompson Road, Kula, Maui, Hawaii, Nov. 4, 2011

Maui County Planning Department’s Report and Recommendation to the Maui Planning Commission, Oct. 27, 2020

The New York Times, Oprah Winfrey Distributes Aid at a Maui Shelter, Aug. 11, 2023

Architectural Digest, Oprah Winfrey Buys 870 Acres in Maui for $6.6 Million, March 7, 2023

Nexis search

NASA Fire Information for Resource Management System, historical data for Aug. 8 to 18, 2023

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More by Loreben Tuquero

No proof of Oprah Winfrey hiring a private firefighting team before Maui wildfires

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