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The Monarch Times

The Monarch Times

Destructive Wildfires in Maui

On August 8, wildfires broke out in West Maui, displacing thousands of residents and devastating the historical city of Lahaina.

As of September 21, Maui County has recorded at least 97 deaths while 31 people remain missing. Some residents escaped the flames and smoke by jumping into the ocean. The National Fire Protection Association has ranked the Maui wildfires among the top 10 deadliest U.S. wildfires on record since 1871.

The fire is assumed to have burned in vegetation before spreading to urban areas. The combination of low humidity during Hawaiʻi’s dry season and 60 mph winds influenced by Hurricane Dora resulted in a high risk of fire. Experts also say Hawaiʻi’s islands are becoming increasingly susceptible to wildfires as a result of the climate crisis.

“The landscape reminded me of California in the Central valley during the summer. It was a lot of dry overgrown grass and as someone who has lived in a fire landscape my entire life I was immediately alarmed by how much dry overgrown grass and vegetation was for what I expected to be a lush and green tropical landscape” said Marie Butler, Mt. Eden teacher who visited Hawaii a few weeks prior to the wildfires.

Hawaiian Electric is currently facing a lawsuit after their power lines fell due to strong winds, allegedly contributing to the wildfires. Maui County officials’ lawsuit accuses Hawaiian Electric of “intentional and malicious” mismanagement after they did not de-energize their power lines despite knowing that the power lines fell into vegetation.

Meanwhile, county leaders are being criticized for not ordering evacuations promptly. In spite of successfully sending warnings through cell phones, TV, and radio stations, local officials failed to activate Maui’s siren system, consisting of 80 outdoor sirens, to alert residents during the wildfires. After the fires broke out, over 2,000 people were housed in emergency shelters. Residents have moved to hotels where the American Red Cross is providing housing and food.

Officials say the process of rebuilding the areas affected by the wildfires could be years long. Additionally, Maui averages 3 million tourists per year. After these wildfires, that number is expected to drastically decline, causing many to worry about the recovery of the island’s economy.

According to The White House, “…President Biden made additional disaster funding available to the state of Hawaii.” This would fund expenses for debris removal, emergency protective measures, and assistance. In the wake of the wildfires, the Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority has recommended people delay their upcoming trips to West Maui.

Support those affected by the wildfires by donating to:

  • Maui Nui Strong: Providing shelter support, fresh food, mobile clinics, power stations, internet access, emergency animal shelters, and more.
  • American Red Cross: Housing and feeding residents in hotels.
  • Maui Food Bank: Distributing food, baby essentials, and toiletries.
  • Maui United Way: A nonprofit supplying impacted residents with locally grown food, transportation, crisis counseling, childcare services, health care services, and more.
  • Na Keiki O Emalia: Providing grief support for children and teenagers experiencing loss.
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About the Contributor
Kaylyn Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief
Hi! I’m Kaylyn Nguyen, founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Monarch Times. I started The Monarch Times to provide a source of information for students and bring the Mt. Eden and Hayward community closer together. Outside of writing, I’m involved in various clubs and enjoy photography, reading, and playing video games. Please look forward to more content from The Monarch Times for years to come!  
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