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The island of Maui has been devastated by a series of wildfires that started two weeks ago and have since burned thousands of acres of land, destroyed many homes and businesses, and killed over 100 people. The fires are among the deadliest and most destructive in U.S. history, fueled by drought, strong winds, and climate change. Here are some of the latest updates on the Lahaina fires.
What caused the fires?
The exact cause of the Lahaina fires is still under investigation, but officials have said that they were aware of the danger of a fire before the blaze actually started. The National Weather Service reportedly declared a “red flag situation” on the island due to extremely dry conditions and high winds.
The fires quickly spread across the island, reaching the historic town of Lahaina on the west coast, where they were intensified by hurricane-force winds from Hurricane Dora. The fire behavior was erratic and explosive, creating fire tornadoes, ember showers, and spot fires that jumped over highways and rivers.
How much damage has been done?
The fires have caused unprecedented damage to Maui’s natural and cultural heritage. The fires reportedly destroyed over 3,000 buildings, including homes, businesses, churches, and whole apartment buildings.
Some of the iconic places that were destroyed in the fire include the Lahaina Banyan Court and the largest banyan tree in the U.S., which is over 150 years old and has branches more than 100 feet long; the Lahaina town center which is on the National Register of Historic Places; and hundreds of other historical buildings in Lahaina, which was once the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom.
How many casualties have there been?
The fires have claimed the lives of at least 110 people, making them the deadliest in U.S. history since the 1918 Cloquet Fire in Minnesota that killed 453 people over 100 years ago. Many of the victims were trapped in their homes or vehicles by the fast-moving flames, while others drowned or suffered from smoke inhalation or burns.
Other major wildfires in recent years
The Lahaina fires are part of a larger trend of increasing wildfire activity in the U.S. and around the world, often driven by climate change, land use changes, and human negligence. Some of the other major wildfires that have occurred in the past few years include the 2017 fire in Tubbs, California, which killed at least 22 people; the 2020 fire in North Complex, California, which killed at least 15 people; and the 2018 fire in Camp, California, which killed at least 85 people,
These wildfires have shown the need for better fire prevention, preparedness, and response, as well as more investment in fire research, education, and management. They have also highlighted the resilience and solidarity of the communities affected by them, who have supported each other and rebuilt their lives after these horrible disasters. The people of Lahaina and Maui as a whole, while devastated, are intent on rebuilding their community.