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Maui Wildfires

ABC News
A wildfire burns in Maui, Hawaii.

On August 8th, wildfires swept across Lahaina, Hawaii on the island of Maui. Lahaina was largely destroyed by the fires, with an estimated 2,170 acres of damage, according to the County of Maui. This wildfire has been one of the nation’s deadliest disasters. Not only has this fire led to death, it’s also led to injuries and displacement for many Lahaina residents. People have lost their homes and their belongings in this devastating event. 

As the wildfire was contained and casualties were being calculated, it was reported that 115 people had died and around 3,000 were missing and unaccounted for. A few days ago, authorities announced that the number of deaths was actually overestimated and the fire caused 97 fatalities. It had taken medical examiners time to identify victims with the use of DNA analysis. The Maui County medical examiner, Dr. Jeremy Stuelpnagel, gave an explanation for this drop in deaths. “In some instances,” Dr. Stuelpnagel explained, “forensic examiners have determined that they had multiple sets of remains for the same person. He also said that 16 of the remains that investigators had received were nonhuman,”(New York Times). The number of missing people has also dropped, with only 31 people still reported missing. 

Many different conditions and events contributed to the start and spread of the Maui wildfires. First of all, there were high winds that helped the fire expand. “Hurricane Dora brought strong winds to Maui as it passed roughly 500 miles south of the Hawaii island chain,”(AP News). These winds caused active power lines to fall and ignite the land, which was dry from drought conditions occurring at the time. Hawaii Electric had no procedures to shut off the grid, making it harder to quickly address the downed powerline issue. Maui County has sued Hawaii Electric, claiming their mismanagement of power lines caused the fire. Hawaii Electric responded by saying their power lines were shut off at the time of the fire and the cause isn’t known yet. 

As it became apparent that the fire was spreading and residents could see the fire approaching, they began to evacuate. There was only one paved road out of town that people rushed towards, but they were stopped by a barricade blocking access to Highway 30. To make matters worse, none of the island’s warning sirens were activated, which would’ve quickly warned Lahaina residents of danger and allowed them to evacuate. This led to many Lahaina residents waiting far too long to evacuate. 

Fortunately, many people were able to survive the fires. Sadly, many lost their homes and belongings and were forced to relocate. According to the New York Times, 6,000 displaced residents are living in hotels and 1,100 are staying in Airbnb rentals. Displaced people are being provided with meals, mental health support, and financial aid from the American Red Cross. Volunteer groups have been sent to help those who have been affected by the fires. The government has received about $19 million in aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There is still lots of work to be done to restore what has been destroyed by the fires and it will take time.

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Betty Fiedler
Betty Fiedler, Staff Writter

My name is Betty Fiedler and I’m a junior here at Barlow. This will be my second year on the Bruin Banner. I enjoy playing soccer and love sweat tart ropes.

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