At least 106 people have been killed and thousands have been forced to evacuate the island Maui after fatal Forest fire there was an uproar Airport,

The fire, which is considered the deadliest in the US in the past century, has struck three of Hawaii’s islands, forcing tourists to flee and residents to seek emergency shelter.

Photos and video from Maui show the devastation caused by the fire, including some neighborhoods The historic town of Lahaina, almost burned to the ground.

Search and recovery efforts began as firefighters worked to contain and extinguish the blaze. But the wildfire has raised the question of how such disasters can be prevented in the future.

Here’s everything we know about how the Hawaii wildfires started.

How did the forest fire start?

August is part of Hawaii’s typical dry season when parts of the island experience unusual to severe drought.

Since early August, much of Maui has been under an “abnormally dry” level of drought, according to US Drought Monitor.

But beginning Tuesday, August 8, a portion of Maui rose to “severe drought” levels, making the region more vulnerable to wildfires.

Although the islands are not new to some wildfires, the number of fires has increased rapidly over the past century due to human activity and an increase in invasive, flammable grasses. Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization (HWMO).

The HWMO wrote in a factsheet, “Non-native grasslands and shrubs now cover about one-quarter of Hawaii’s total land area and, with a hot, dry climate and year-round fire season, are prone to major fire events.” increases significantly.”

This photo provided by Maui County shows flames and smoke billowing into the sky from a wildfire at the intersection of Hokiokio Place and Lahaina Bypass in Maui.

(AP)

Dry vegetation combined with dry conditions create an ideal environment for wildfires.

But in the event of a wildfire, the cause of the blaze could be high winds brought by Category 5 Hurricane Dora, located several hundred miles off the Hawaiian coast.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a red flag warning to the Hawaii National Guard due to high winds, low humidity and drought. Washington Post,

This graphic shows the location of the fire on the island of Maui, Hawaii

(AP)

Hawaii’s largest utility company is now coming under scrutiny as questions are being raised about whether it took enough precautions to prevent wildfires as heavy winds began to blow across Maui last week.

Lawyers representing Lahaina residents are suing Hawaiian Electric, claiming its equipment was not strong enough to handle the winds that hit the island, saying the company should have shut off power before the winds hit the area. Was needed According to the new York Times.

Wildfire experts who have tracked California’s fires over the past 20 years see problems at Hawaiian Electric.

Officials at the state and local level have still not determined the cause of the fire nearly a week after it began, but conditions were similar to other parts of the US where wildfires are caused by electrical equipment, namely old infrastructure, high winds, The reason has started. and dry, easily flammable brush.

Many US wildfires start when power lines are downed, or when branches or other things fall on power lines, causing lightning, causing some utility companies to shut off power before strong winds.

The National Weather Service expected winds of 45 mph and gusts of 60 mph to hit Maui on August 8 as Hurricane Dora passed about 700 miles south of the island.

James Frantz, chief executive of Frantz Law Group, said many times that “we allege that a number of regulatory laws requiring the maintenance of the equipment were broken”.

The group is one of several companies moving against Hawaiian Electric.

“There has to be some accountability,” he said.

Investors in the utility company appear to be worried as its share price plunged by more than a third of its value on Monday, Aug. 14. The company may have to pay large sums of money to settle lawsuits from homeowners and businesses, and may also have to invest in fireproofing its existing infrastructure.

Stock analyst Shaharyar Poureza told many times that “the issue is whether they did everything that was reasonable to prevent the incident”.

“Was there gross negligence, was there indiscretion?” He added.

Hawaiian Electric was founded in 1891, and on Maui, it operates under a subsidiary company – Maui Electric. The company is small compared to other companies in California that have distributed massive settlements after wildfires.

In 2022, it has $3.7 billion in revenue, compared to California’s Pacific Gas & Electric’s $21.7 billion.

The chief executive of Hawaiian Electric, Shelley Kimura, said during a press conference on August 14 that they did not have a shutdown schedule and that turning off power could cause problems for people using certain types of medical equipment.

He said shutting off the power would require coordination with emergency services.

“In Lahaina, electricity powers the pumps that provide the water and so it was also a vital necessity during that time,” he said. “There are choices that need to be made and all of these factors play a role in that.”

On Saturday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pacific Disaster Center said more than 2,000 structures were damaged or destroyed on Maui, with the cost of reconstruction estimated at $5.52 billion.

Mr. Paureza said Hawaiian Electric could be liable for more than $4 billion. The company had $314 million in cash in June.

Lightning has also started some wildfires in the US West, but NASA’s lightning detectors didn’t see any such activity around Hawaii when the fires started.

Whisker Labs is a private firm that monitors electrical grid problems in cities that could lead to house fires. According to it, its data shows major incidents on power lines where fires are suspected many times.

In the late night of August 7 and the early hours of August 8, data showed that power lines began to lose voltage, which can occur when branches and other types of vegetation come under wires, lines, poles or other types of debris. starts affecting the equipment.

The firm said it has about 1,000 sensors in Hawaii and about 70 in Maui. While all of Maui’s sensors detected a malfunction, the strongest sensor was near Lahaina.

Its co-founder and chief executive Bob Marshall said many times It lasted eight seconds, “which is an eternity in electrical grid time”.

He added, “Something on the grid was very unhappy for eight seconds and was trying to get over the shock.”

In a 2022 regulatory filing, Hawaiian Electric outlined efforts to reduce the risk of fire. It said the company was “hardening” the pillars to be able to handle strong winds and that it was removing vegetation, citing Lahaina as a priority area.

Security measures take time and can be costly for a company to implement.

Stanford climate and energy policy scholar Michael Vara told many times The cost of burying power lines ranges from $3 million to $5 million for each mile, a cost typically added to customers’ bills. Hawaii’s electricity rates are already among the highest in the US, Says the US Energy Information Administration.

“Why didn’t they do the cheap thing, turn off the power?” Mr. Vara asked.

Where did wildfires start?

Earlier this week fires broke out on three islands: Hawaii, Maui and Oahu and the deadliest fire was in Maui.

It is not clear where the fires first started but since they started, they have grown rapidly.

The city of Lahaina, located in west Maui, was the most affected, where more than 270 buildings burned down.

On Saturday August 12, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pacific Disaster Center stated that approximately 2,000 structures were destroyed or damaged on Maui.

The speed with which the fire spread to Lahaina made it difficult for firefighters to bring the blaze under control.

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