Hawaiian fire experts warned of wildfire danger years ago, and key recommendations were ignored. Additionally, arsonists set blazes all across the island in 2022
The death toll from the destructive wildfire that incinerated Maui’s historic town of Lahaina continues to rise as firefighters battle blazes on the Hawaiian island.
The raging wildfire that swept through the picturesque town of Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui this week has killed at least 93 people, authorities said early Sunday, making it the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii since it became a state in 1959.
…Maui County officials said early Sunday that firefighting crews are continuing to extinguish flare-ups in the Lahaina and Upcountry Maui fires.
In the Upcountry Maui fire, three structures in Olinda and 16 structures in Kula were destroyed. On Saturday, the Pulehu/Kīhei fire was declared 100%, which indicates what percentage of the fire perimeter has been enclosed by a control line and reflects opportunities for the fire to spread beyond its original border into new areas.
The American media has been attempting to link this wildfire to its “Climate Crisis” narrative. It appears the effort is backfiring, as people are questioning whether or not the “experts” are applying real science.
The fires currently burning in Maui are a direct result of the passing of Hurricane Dora and have nothing to do with climate change.
— Dr. Matthew M. Wielicki (@MatthewWielicki) August 9, 2023
To begin with, Legal Insurrection readers may recall that I noted that poor land management practices needed to be considered when assessing the reasons the blaze roared out of control with such ferocity.
It turns out that nine years ago, a report by Hawaiian fire researchers sounded the alarm that the area was at extremely high risk of burning. Many key recommendations were ignored.
In 2014, a wildfire-protection plan for the area was written by the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, a nonprofit that works with government agencies. It warned that Lahaina was among Maui’s most fire-prone areas because of its proximity to parched grasslands, steep terrain and frequent winds.
The plan, which involved Maui and state officials, laid out a multitude of mitigation measures that needed to be undertaken to shield the area around Lahaina from fires. They included thinning vegetation near populated areas, improving wildfire-response capabilities and working with landowners and utilities to help reduce fire risk on their property.
Some of the recommendations from the 2014 plan, which was devised after more than a half-dozen community meetings, were implemented, like brush thinning efforts and public education for landowners, said the report’s lead author, Elizabeth Pickett. But others, such as ramping up emergency-response capacity, have been stymied by a lack of funding, logistical hurdles in rugged terrain and competing priorities, said Pickett, co-executive director of the wildfire nonprofit.
“We’ve been hammering this home, and it’s just really frustrating and heartbreaking to see that some things could have been done, but we couldn’t find money,” she said. “We are living through what happens when there’s a lag and everyone’s still catching up.”
Many people are suggesting that an arson investigation be conducted once the fires are under control, in light of the fact there were acts of arson all over Maui in 2022.
Officials said fires were located all over the island of Maui in different regions.
“Fire and police suspect someone is intentionally setting them,” said Maui Mayor Michael Victorino.
According to officials, the incident happened between the hours of 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 12.
MFD said they responded to a total of seven brush fire calls in Central Maui.
FLASHBACK: 3 arrested after suspicious fires started on Maui, two charged with arson in 2022https://t.co/kc9WI6Y1gG
— Jack Poso 🇺🇸 (@JackPosobiec) August 12, 2023
I will also note that the Hawaii Fire Department were investigating the brush fires in Kaʻū in Naalehu and Pahala, which were suspected cases of arson, on August 9th.
Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, at least, noted that there was a possibility of arson.
It all began with a small forest fire, though it’s not yet clear what started that fire and whether it could be linked to arson.
In any case, firefighters could not extinguish the blaze and on Wednesday night the flames began to spread very quickly. Fanned by extremely strong winds, the fire was soon out of control, a similar situation to the recent wildfires on the Greek island of Rhodes. In both cases, the fire spread so fast that many people panicked and jumped into the sea to escape the flames.
Hopefully, Hawaiian fire officials will be allowed to conduct a full assessment and some less narrative-driven members of the press will publish those findings when available.
Another aspect to consider when assessing the reasons behind this disaster is that the area’s vegetation has changed.
Hawaii isn’t traditionally known as a wildfire hotspot, though researchers have noted a steep increase in recent years.
One study cited deforestation, the abandonment of agricultural lands and the introduction of non-native, fire-prone grasses as factors that have made Hawaii more susceptible to fire.
The precise cause of the fires has not yet been determined, but the U.S. National Weather Service had issued warnings for the Hawaiian Islands for high winds and dry weather — conditions ripe for wildfires.
Vegetation in Maui’s lowland areas was particularly dry this year, after below-average precipitation this spring and summer, experts said.
Lahaina is on the dry side of the island. If drought-resistant plants replaced ones that were less so, that surely must be considered more of a factor than changes in trace levels of carbon dioxide (a life-essential gas).
As I am on the subject of vegetation, many are worried about Lahaina’s iconic banyan tree.
The tree was just an 8-foot (2-meter) sapling when it was planted in 1873, a gift shipped from India to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first Protestant mission in Lahaina. It was planted a quarter century before the Hawaiian Islands became a U.S. territory and seven decades after King Kamehameha declared Lahaina the capital of his kingdom.
“There is nothing that has made me cry more today than the thought of the Banyan Tree in my hometown of Lahaina,” wrote a poster identifying herself as HawaiiDelilah on X, formerly known as Twitter.
“We will rebuild,” her post said. “And the natural beauty of Maui will be forever.”
— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) August 10, 2023
Prayers for Maui’s recovery and for the healing of its people, land, and the Banyan Tree.
Meanwhile, it is heartening to see so much push-back against the narrative pseudoscience the press is pushing.DONATE
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