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What Caused the Maui Fires? Here’s What We Know

Wildfires burning in Hawaii have caused multiple deaths and forced residents to evacuate. The town of Lahaina on Maui in Hawaii was engulfed by fires and little remains. Although the cause of the initial fire is still unknown, here’s some information on what could have caused the Lahaina blaze on Maui. 

(Here’s how to help those affected by the Maui wildfires.)

What Caused the Maui Fires?

When the fires started, the fire risk warning was red. A red flag means dry conditions for an extended period of time. Low humidity and high winds are basically a recipe for fire.

Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara of the Hawaii Army National Guard said they don’t know for certain what ignited the fires. However, Maui resident J.D. Hessemer said that power lines were down and powerful winds from Hurricane Dora were hitting the island before the blaze engulfed the town.

High winds from Hurricane Dora, classified as a Category 4 by the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, with gusts above 60 miles per hour in Maui likely contributed to the spreading of the Lahaina fires, and the wind may have even caused the fires.

Image by Jupiter Images

The Big Island of Hawaii also experienced wildfire destruction, and the National Weather Service said in a tweet that “differences in atmospheric pressure between the hurricane and the air north of Hawaii formed a pressure gradient over the islands which, when combined with dry conditions, posed a serious threat of fires as well as damaging winds.”

What Causes Wildfires?

The National Park Service website states that nearly 85% of wildfires in the United States are caused by humans. Accidental fires can be caused by unattended campfires, burning trash, discarded cigarettes, and some types of equipment. Humans may also intentionally cause fires.

Where Are the Fires in Maui?

The fires are in Lahaina, Pulehu/Kihei, and up-county parts of Maui. The fires in Lahaina are almost fully contained, but the damage is done and much of the town is destroyed.

Image by Douglas Peebles

Did Climate Change Cause the Maui Fires?

Katharine Hayhoe, the chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy, told the Guardian that global heating contributes to dry vegetation, a situation likely to cause fires to break out. 
“Climate change doesn’t usually start the fires; but it intensifies them, increasing the area they burn and making them much more dangerous,” Hayhoe tweeted.

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