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Wildfires in Maui, Hawaii rapidly grew overnight on August 8th 2023. The fires destroyed the town of Lahaina, claiming at least 106 lives and destroying hundreds of buildings.
The cause of the wildfires has been attributed to fallen utility lines in a windstorm. High wind warnings were in place for Maui, but Hawaii Electric Company kept the power lines on, even after dozens had collapsed. Hawaii Electric Company is now facing a class-action lawsuit after the deaths due to the fire.
Dry conditions and the high winds made the fires spread far and fast. Over 1,900 structures were visibly damaged or destroyed in Lahaina. The fire was largely contained on August 10, but rescue efforts were hindered by the fear of flare-ups from the smoking rubble.
Lahaina, a historic tourist town, was completely decimated, including severe damage to the 150-year old Banyan tree, the oldest of its kind in the United States. The Banyan tree sustained substantial damage, and its future and health is unknown as experts continue to examine.
Hawaii is experiencing more widespread drought conditions and hotter temperatures, which increases the risk of grass and wildfires. Hawaii has become increasingly vulnerable to fast-spreading wildfires such as the one that tore through Lahaina. 16% of Maui County was under a drought watch, as opposed to the prior week’s 5%.
Maui’s public safety system has come under criticism after the island’s 80 emergency warning sirens– those used in the event of a tsunami– were not activated while the blaze burned through the island. Many residents received no warning of the dangerous fire until they saw the smoke.
The wildfires trapped residents, and 1,300 people were still missing as of August 16. The Maui wildfires are the deadliest U.S wildfires in over a century.
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Wildfires in Mauai, Hawaii evolve and grow overnight.
Wildfires in Maui, Hawaii grew rapidly prompting residents along the west coast to evacuate.
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