The Devastating Maui Wildfires
The fiery disaster is the worst in the US for over a century.
By: Kirsten Brooker | August 30, 2023 | 501 Words
Most of the world is familiar with the wildfires that have consumed Canada since April of this year. Though the vast and open Canadian landscape has prevented a mass number of human casualties, the fires have destroyed over 25 million acres of land across the country. Wildfires happen across the globe, and those living on one of Hawaii’s big islands are experiencing the devastation first-hand. On August 8, a combination of high winds, drought, and increased temperatures is believed to have triggered a wildfire in Maui. The destruction is immeasurable, and the island’s residents desperately seek refuge.
How the Fire Started
While the exact cause of the fire is unknown, experts believe that abnormally high winds, warm temperatures, and dry conditions worked together to ignite a wildfire that would consume the island. However, much of the acreage that is destroyed by wildfires in Hawaii every year is primarily caused by humans.
Jeff Masters, a meteorologist for Yale Climate Connections, said: “When the air is hotter it can hold more water vapor, so that means you get more water evaporating from plants, and that dries them out. But you can’t blame it just on climate change, that’s for sure. Humans are causing this wildfire risk in multiple ways.”
The local power company, Hawaiian Electric, is being sued by Lahaina residents for negligence in readying themselves for the storm. In areas susceptible to wildfires, it is common practice to shut the power down during storms with high winds.
The Town That Was Hit the Hardest
Lahaina, Hawaii, a historic town with about 13,000 residents, took the brunt of the damage from the raging fires. Many townspeople were busy preparing for the category four storm, Hurricane Dora, swiftly approaching the area. Unfortunately, they were unprepared for the firestorm that overtook their paradise. In addition, a delayed emergency warning system failed to alert the citizens of the threat.
Over 100 have perished in the unforgiving blaze, and more than 2,500 acres of land, homes, and businesses were destroyed. Currently, over 1,000 people remain unaccounted for. The aftermath of the disaster detailed the severity of the storm and the reality that nearly the entirety of the historic town was burned to ashes.
Those who survived were left without power or reliable cell service. A low-flying plane relayed important messages over a loudspeaker, informing people where to find food, water, and shelter. Groups of helpers have arrived to survey the damage and locate any additional survivors and victims. Airbnb’s, shelters, and hotels are at total capacity, while over 2,000 homes remain without power. Another large storm is forecasted to hit the area in the coming days. The rain is much needed and would generally be welcomed, but given the massive amounts of destruction, and the number of people yet to be found, many are hopeful that it will not add to the catastrophe.
President Biden and his wife, Jill, are planning a visit to Maui to meet with survivors, government officials, and first responders.