Image 01 Image 03

Maui Wildfires Kill at least 36 and Destroy Historic Town of Lahaina

Maui Wildfires Kill at least 36 and Destroy Historic Town of Lahaina

At least three fires are also burning on Hawaii’s Big Island. The causes of blazes, spread rapidly via hurricane-force winds, are currently unknown.

Wildfires have swept through a section of the Hawaiian island of Maui, claiming at least 36 lives and leaving 20 people gravely injured.

At least 36 people are dead and search efforts are still underway on the Hawaiian islands as the influence of Hurricane Dora to the south of the islands and a strong ridge of high pressure to the north fuel dangerous wildfires.

“As the firefighting efforts continue, 36 total fatalities have been discovered today amid the active Lahaina fire. No other details are available at this time,” according to a press release from Maui County.

Fire crews battled brush fires on Maui and the Big Island on Tuesday as wind gusts of more than 70 mph helped spread the flames. One of the larger fires burning on the northern part of the Big Island charred more than 1,800 acres.

My family was there one month ago. We visited my son, who worked in a town about 30 minutes from Lahaina. Fortunately, Blake is back in Colorado now.

We drove through the area and strolled through the beautiful resort section on one of our adventures. I did notice how dry the hillsides were as we drove through that section of Maui. I am saddened by the sudden devastation, and prayers go out to everyone in Maui.

The strong winds slamming Maui from Hurricane Dora spread the blazes rapidly.

The wildfire in Lahaina was one of many in Hawaii fanned by strong winds that burned multiple structures, forced evacuations and caused power outages in several communities as firefighters struggled to reach some areas that were cut off by downed trees and power lines. Some people reported having trouble evacuating due to gridlock, smoke and encroaching flames.

The National Weather Service said Hurricane Dora, which was passing to the south of the island chain at a safe distance of 500 miles, was partly to blame for gusts above 60 mph that knocked out power as night fell, rattled homes and grounded firefighting helicopters. Dangerous fire conditions created by strong winds and low humidity were expected to last through Wednesday afternoon, the weather service said.

Hawaii’s firefighters are also battling at least three brush fires on the Big Island, prompting several evacuations throughout the area.

The fires were kicked up by high winds fueled by Hurricane Dora passing south of Hawaii, the National Weather Service said. The fires are burning in north and south Kohala, and in a Wednesday press conference Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said firefighters are still battling all the fires.

Roth said as many as five separate fires ignited.

The Akoni Pule Fire is burning in the North Kohala District off Akoni Pule Highway, also known as Highway 270, near Kohala Ranch, Hawaii County officials said in a Wednesday morning news release. The fire is roughly 60% contained, Roth said in a Wednesday morning Facebook video.

Another fire is in the South Kohala District in Waimea, Hawaii officials said. The South Kohala blaze is in and around the Mauna Kea Beach area as of Wednesday morning, Roth said.

Of course, the media is quick to blame climate change.

Hawaii is better known for its tropical conditions and bouts of intense rain, but the islands have become increasingly prone to wildfire damage because of climate change. The island of Maui is the state’s driest at the moment, with much of West Maui facing moderate drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This year has not been especially dry when compared to drought data over the past two decades, however.

However, I encourage thorough investigations and evaluation if other issues (e.g., poor land management, restrictions on brush clearing) may have been a contributing factor in this disaster.

Almost 85% of wildfires in the United States are caused by humans, according to the National Park Service. Fires that are sparked this way can result accidentally from leaving campfires unattended, burning debris, using various kinds of equipment and discarding cigarettes improperly. Intentional acts of arson are another source of human-caused wildfires, the agency says.

Lightning and volcanic activity are two natural causes of wildfires, although officials note that lightning strikes are a much more common catalyst.

Certain weather can ignite and help spread fires, with strong winds, low relative humidity, unstable atmospheric conditions and thunderstorms contributing to what meteorologists call “fire weather,” said Nick Nauslar, a meteorologist and former weather forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center, in a 2018 FAQ published by the agency.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.