Fires in Hawaii

August 10, 2023
smoky sky

It was so hard to sit there and just watch my town burn to ashes and not be able to do anything.

Lahaina, Hawaii, resident Kamuela Kawaakoa after escaping her apartment with her family as fires impact the Hawaiian island of Maui.

Why It Matters: Wildfires are sweeping across Maui, resulting in the death of at least 36 people "in the deadliest blaze in the US. in years" (The Associated Press). Search and rescue efforts continue amid ongoing fires (which have been largely contained as of Thursday morning) and officials have cautioned that the death toll could continue to rise. The fires began on Tuesday taking the island by surprise, "fueled in part by winds from" from Hurricane Dora (which was passing further south and not expected to make landfall in Hawaii) meeting dry land; "The island of Maui is the state's driest at the moment, with much of West Maui facing moderate drought conditions," The New York Times explains.

One of the areas most impacted is Lahaina, a historic town dating back to the 1700s and is also a popular tourist destination. Alan Dickar, who owns three houses in Lahaina and a poster gallery, explained, “The central two blocks is the economic heart of this island, and I don’t know what’s left.”

In a statement, Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen Jr. said, "We are grieving with each other during this inconsolable time … In the days ahead, we will be stronger as a 'kaiaulu,' or community, as we rebuild with resilience and aloha."

At least 36 killed on Maui as fires burn through Hawaii and thousands race to escape

by Jenna Lee,