Record wildfire burns amid drought on Hawaii’s Big Island

The 62-square-mile blaze is the biggest the island has ever seen

Caleb Jones
Tuesday 03 August 2021 13:05
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US: Brush Fire In Hawaii Island Grows To 40,000 Acres, Evacuation Order Extended

Firefighters have gained more control over a wildfire in Hawaii that forced thousands of people to evacuate over the weekend and destroyed at least two homes on the Big Island, but officials have warned strong winds could raise the danger again.

Authorities have lifted evacuation orders but warned they could be reinstated at any time and that people should be ready to go.

“It’s the biggest (fire) we’ve ever had on this island,” Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said of the more than 62-square-mile blaze.

“With the drought conditions that we’ve had, it is of concern. You see something like this where you’re putting thousands of homes in danger, it’s very concerning.”

Fires in Hawaii are unlike many of those burning in the western USA. They tend to break out in large grasslands on the dry sides of the islands and are generally much smaller than mainland fires.

Even though Hawaii has a wet, tropical climate that is not typically at risk from large fires, blazes could become more frequent as climate change-related weather patterns intensify.

The islands have seen a downward trend in overall rainfall in recent years.

Drought conditions have reached the most severe level in some parts of Hawaii in recent years, according to the US Drought Monitor. Drought that is tied to climate change has made wildfires harder to fight.

Two homes were confirmed destroyed in the Hawaii fire. One homeowner said he tried to protect his property but lost the battle as the wind picked up.

“I had a dozer on my lawn, my land, and I tried to make a fire break,” Joshua Kihe of the community of Waimea told Hawaii News Now. He said the fire destroyed his home.

“I definitely need to think of a plan because it’s a life-changer,” he said.

Others scrambled to evacuate.

“I just seen the flames coming,” Waimea resident Kanani Malakaua said. “I mainly got my important papers, made sure my kids were in the car, got my animals - but this is a very, very scary time for us.”

Some nearby roads were closed, making certain neighbourhoods inaccessible, but there was no imminent threat to those houses.

According to the National Weather Service, the gusts will begin to ease on Tuesday.

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