Destructive Fire Ignites in Maui Jungle, Forces Some People to Flee to the Sea: Live Update

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fire in maui jungle

A fire erupted in the Maui jungle due to strong winds from a passing storm, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate, leaving thousands without power, and destroying homes, with some residents even having to flee to the sea to escape the flames.

Maui County spokeswoman Mahina Martin told USA Today on Wednesday that the fire is affecting three areas of the island: Lahaina, a commercial district with residential and tourist sectors in western Maui; Kula, a residential area in the interior, hilly region; and Kihei, a residential hub in southern Maui, featuring homes, condos, short-term vacation rentals, and visitor amenities.

County officials stated that several structures have been lost, and evacuation orders have been issued as emergency crews battle the blaze and structural fires. Martin noted that it’s still unclear how many people have been evacuated, the size of the fire, and the extent of the damage to structures.

She said, “We have a lot to learn from this event. This has been an unprecedented event attacking large areas of our island and is almost entirely hazardous.”

Acting Governor Sylvia Luke and Maui Mayor Richard Bissen issued emergency proclamations in response to the fire. According to the Hawaii Adjutant General, the Hawaii National Guard has been activated, and the Maui Police Department is assisting in traffic control points.

The National Weather Service stated that Tropical Storm Dora, passing 500 miles south of the island chain, coupled with strong high-pressure conditions to the north, brought intense and dangerous winds overnight.

The Weather Service warned on Wednesday, “With low humidity levels, these strong winds are creating dangerous fire conditions that will persist into Wednesday afternoon.”

Map of the Maui Fire
Track the latest jungle fire and red flag warnings with data updated based on multiple events and confidential sources.

About 2,000 People Stranded at Maui Airport
Martin mentioned that over 2,000 travelers were stranded at Kahului Maui Airport, either having had flights canceled or having no place to go. The Department of Transportation stated on Wednesday that approximately 1,800 people took shelter at the airport overnight, and several highways in western Maui remained closed.

Officials tweeted previously, “HDOOT worked with airlines/TSA to secure shelter for travelers from a safety standpoint since fires continue to rage in Lahaina and Upcountry areas.” They also mentioned that the Hawaii Air National Guard is responding and Maui Police Department personnel are assisting with traffic control points.

The National Weather Service warned on Tuesday that Hurricane Dora, passing 500 miles south of the island chain, and strong high-pressure conditions to the north resulted in swift, damaging winds overnight.

The Weather Service stated, “With low humidity levels, these strong winds are creating dangerous fire conditions that will persist into Wednesday afternoon.”

Maui Fire Map
Here’s the latest map of the jungle fire and red flag warnings updated with data from various incidents and confidential sources.

10 Schools Closed, One Converted to Shelter
According to the Hawaii Department of Education, ten public schools in Maui will be closed on Wednesday, with one school being converted into an evacuation shelter.

Officials said Lahainaluna High School boarders were transported to Maui High School on Tuesday evening, which will be used as an evacuation shelter and can be accessed by family members or emergency contacts. Lahainaluna complex remained closed on Wednesday due to power outages, wind damage, and brush fires.

Esteemed Front Street Destroyed, Homes Lost, Residents Evacuated
County officials said that lifeguards are responding to areas where residents are “entering the ocean due to smoke and fire conditions.” Officials tweeted earlier, “Ocean safety is working to shelter residents near fires and smoke on our beaches.”

Front Street business owner Alan Dick told CBS News that buildings on both sides of the street were surrounded by flames. According to Dick, the fire department looked to be overburdened.

Dick stated, “Maui can’t handle this. Many people have lost their jobs because many businesses burned. Many people have lost their homes. … For Maui, this will be terrible.”

Bissen told The Associated Press that in Kula, at least two homes were lost in a roughly 1,100-acre area. He said approximately 80 people were evacuated from around 40 homes.

The Red Cross has opened several emergency shelters for residents. Martin said that one shelter alone had over 1,200 people.

Maui Jungle, Forces Some People to Flee to the Sea !

According to him, “I hold a firm belief that their deep concern is directed towards our evacuation centers.”

Martin said that except for leaving behind an arsonist, there have been no reports of anyone getting injured, as someone experienced difficulty breathing due to smoke inhalation while responding to the fire in western Maui and was taken to a local hospital, where their condition is stable.

Map of wildfire smoke: See where fires are burning across Hawaii and the entire United States

Numerous people are without electricity, and western Maui no longer has 911 service. According to Poweroutage.us, over 14,000 customers were without power in Maui County. County officials advised residents to stay at least 30 feet away from fallen power lines, leading to travel restrictions on parts of Honoapiilani Highway. A section of the highway was reopened on Tuesday evening for travel to and from Lahaina, but drivers were advised to expect slow progress via the bypass route.

In western Maui, 911 service is no longer available. Martin said managing evacuation orders in Lahaina has become “very difficult” as there is no cellular service in the area and only landlines are working.

Adam Ventraub, communications director for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, said Oahu, where Honolulu is located, was dealing with power outages, downed power lines, and transportation issues.

The fire’s flames are being fanned by strong gusts. Martin said gusts up to 80 mph were recorded in Kula, “which greatly impacted the speed and spread of the fire.”

Martin previously mentioned that due to the wind patterns, helicopters were unable to drop water on the fire from the sky – or accurately gauge the size and speed of the fire – and firefighters were contending with obstructed roads from fallen trees and power lines, as reported earlier by the Associated Press.

Through Wednesday, there are high-wind warnings and red flag warnings for potentially dangerous fire weather conditions from the Honolulu National Weather Service. Fire authorities on Maui issued a warning that it is impossible to forecast the course and pace of a fire due to variable winds, rough terrain, steep slopes, and the fire’s direction and location. According to officials, the fire may theoretically push itself away from its source by igniting spot fires below and sending embers soaring overhead.

“The fire could be a mile or more away from your house, but within one or two minutes, it could be at your doorstep,” said Jeff Giesea, assistant head of the fire department. If there is burning airborne debris present, a fire might begin far from its source. Additionally, there are fires on the Big Island. Officials from Hawaii County said on Tuesday that they were keeping an eye on two fires in gulches in North and South Kohala. Power loss and orders for evacuations resulted from the fire.

In a new statement from the Governor’s Office, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved the state’s request for a disaster declaration to provide assistance for the “wind-impacted” Kohala Ranch fire on the Big Island.

According to officials, the fire on Tuesday put at risk up to 200 homes in rural areas, a volunteer fire department, nearby electric transmission lines, and an AT&T cellular communications tower. When government aid was requested, the fire was out of control and had consumed more than 600 acres.

The statement said that with those fires and two other uncontrolled fires on Big Island and Maui, firefighting efforts have been hampered by “aircraft access being limited by the weather, making it impossible to provide aerial assistance to their efforts to curb the flames.”

According to Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth, about 400 homes in four communities in the island’s north are being evacuated. We’re trying to safeguard communal properties, he said. He stated that a house’s roof caught fire on Tuesday.

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