Maui burns

Maui County officials closed all roads to public use in the town of Lahaina as wildfires on the Hawaiian island burned out of control, driven by high winds that the Associated Press said gusted over 60 mph. Hurricane Dora has passed to the south of the islands at a distance of nearly 500 miles, but extreme conditions and violent winds across the islands resulted in numerous power outages late Tuesday; firefighters struggled to reach areas cut off by downed trees and powerlines.

The National Weather Service said Hurricane Dora’s winds knocked out power and grounded firefighting helicopters.

West Maui is closed off to all traffic, according to a CNN report from Maui County. Only emergency personnel are allowed access to that part of the island.

NASA image, Maui firesThe BBC reported that some residents were forced to jump into the ocean ahead of racing flames; the Coast Guard said at least a dozen people were rescued from the water. Local media reported “apocalyptic scenes” in the historic town of Lahaina, parts of which were destroyed or severely damaged. The Lahaina fire is one of at least seven now burning in the state.

A local CBS affiliate reported that dozens of homes and businesses were destroyed on the western part of the island of Maui, the second largest and third most populated island in the state. HawaiiNewsNow reported that witnesses described apocalyptic scenes Tuesday. Residents say an overwhelmed fire force, fighting flames all day in powerful winds, could do little as flames ripped through Lahaina.

Videos from the island show the historic town’s main street and local businesses burning. “Buildings on both sides were engulfed,” local business owner Alan Dickar told CBS.

“Hawaii National Guardsmen have been activated and are currently on Maui assisting Maui Police Department at traffic control points,” said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, Hawaii’s adjutant general. The overnight deployment was hastened by the dynamic fire conditions, and additional National Guard personnel are expected to arrive in Maui and Hawaii counties later Wednesday, Hara said.

Lt. Governor Sylvia Luke, who is acting while Gov. Josh Green is traveling out of state, issued an emergency proclamation Tuesday that activated the Guard. Updated road closures and other emergency notices are posted on the County of Maui facebook page.

 

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6 thoughts on “Maui burns”

  1. The Los Angeles Times pointed out the following:
    Maui County’s 1,044-page hazard mitigation plan lists coastal West Maui as having a high wildfire risk. A map on Page 503 shows all of Lahaina’s buildings as being in a wildfire risk area, and the document warns that “populations with limited access to information may not receive time-critical warning information to enable them to reach places of safety.” https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2023-08-12/how-maui-fire-became-a-monster

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  2. Having been to Maui over 15 times since I retired, and specifically to Lahaina each of those times while staying in the Kahana area, one needs to understand the history of this area that dates back before the “whaling era.” Most of Lahaina was settled and developed at or before then so we cannot apply current standards to such an ancient development. All of the old businesses in the town proper had been remodeled several times but were “back to back” and side by side construction so were easily engulfed by fire in any one building. My hope now is that the famous banyon tree can be saved and is not “scorched to death.” If so, the town will likely rebuild around that key town center.

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  3. Part of my concern and sadness with this is that much of the damage to life and property is a result of dense construction and general lack of consideration of wildland fire from developers and communities. Now I am basing this assumption only on some of the pictures I have seen of destroyed areas. I have not been there or delt with fire in Hawaii so please correct me if I am wrong but I see images of Lahaina burnt to the ground that look like houses were only feet apart in neighborhood with one way in and out. It reminds me a lot of Paradise.

    We need to keep talking about these issues. There is little we can do to change the climate and less to change the weather but the way we built our communities and live our lives is up to us. Regardless of what got us to this point for good or bad we need to be better when looking to the future of fire.

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  4. Let’s hope that officials have already dispatched one or more Type I teams to Maui, as needed.

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    1. Hawaii has a really robust fire management program, and it’s also part of Region 5 USFS.

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