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.
The 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.