Skip to main content

Wildfires on Maui

SCORCHED EARTH The town of Lahaina, on Maui, lies in ruins after wildfires swept through it on August 8. ROBERT GAUTHIER—LOS ANGELES TIMES/GETTY IMAGES

On August 8, wildfires swept through Lahaina. The town is on the Hawaiian island of Maui. These were the deadliest fires the United States has seen in a century. At press time, 115 people have died. That number is expected to rise.

President Joe Biden visited Maui on August 21. “I will do everything in my power to help Maui recover and rebuild,” he said in a statement.

A nearby hurricane fueled the disaster. Winds blew flames across Lahaina. Emergency sirens failed to sound. Residents are asking why the state was not prepared. “We never thought that this would happen in Hawaii,” Maximus Yarawamai says. He lives on a nearby island, and traveled to Maui to help. “We’ve had fires. But not this magnitude.”

Biden ordered federal aid for Hawaii on August 10. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has provided meals and water, blankets, and other supplies. But some residents say the U.S. government has been too slow to respond.

Severe Weather

Maui’s fires came during a summer of extreme weather. India suffered a heat wave. Canada has seen its worst wildfire season on record. Fires burned the Spanish island of Tenerife. And Southern California saw a tropical storm.

Maui’s fire may have been ignited by fallen power lines. Scorching heat, dry grass, and high winds created a dangerous situation. Jeff Masters is a meteorologist. “If you give a spark in those kinds of conditions, drought plus heat plus wind,” he says, “it can lead to very rapid fire spread and very intense fires.”

Stop and Think!

Why do you think TFK has chosen to cover this story? What factors do editors consider when deciding what stories to feature?