A state that is surrounded by water is now the scene of the deadliest blaze in modern U.S. history, with officials still in search and rescue mode for survivors.
At last report from local authorities, at least 93 people were killed, and thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed, making the fire the most significant event in 2023 and the deadliest since California’s Camp Fire was responsible for the deaths of 88 people in 2018.
The combination of dry brush, terrain and windy conditions were present in both California and the most recent disaster in Hawaii.
Wildfires are hardly a rarity across the country’s 50th state; the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization reports around 20,000 acres burn each year, with 98% being human-caused.
Deadliest U.S. wildfires
Due to the terrain, population and frequency of mega-droughts, California has been home to many of the deadliest wildfires since 1933.
Fires such as the Camp (2018), August Complex (2020), Griffith Park (1933) and Oakland Hills (1991) killed dozens and rank as some of the most extreme events in U.S. history.
Nearly all of these deadly blazes were human-induced and have forced changes in both wildfire prevention and the firefighting response.
According to a congressional report, 89% of wildfires between 2018 and 2022 were human-caused, but those triggered by lightning tend to burn more acres.
Due to the continuous threat the state is under, California said it now has the largest aerial firefighting fleet on standby and continuously uses networks of cameras, drones and other real-time intelligence to monitor and aid in any firefight.
What triggered the initial flames in Hawaii?
Authorities in Hawaii say it is still too early to determine was caused the initial flames that produced devastation on parts of Maui and the Big Island.
The National Weather Service office and local emergency management received reports of downed power lines on several islands due to wind gusts in excess of 60 mph, but it is unclear if any electrified lines came in contact with dry brush.
As part of the investigation, authorities will examine infrastructure that could spark a fire under dry conditions.
Hawaiian Electric, the local utility provider, has not addressed questions on whether a utility line contributed to any of the fires but did direct FOX Weather to a statement regarding ongoing outages.
"We are all hands on deck in supporting and responding to Maui communities affected by the outages, active wildfires, and sustained high wind damage," Shayna Decker, Hawaiian Electric spokesperson, said in a statement. "Our focus right now is the safety of our communities, customers, and workforce and prioritizing power restoration to areas that our crews can safely access. We continue to actively monitor the fluid wildfire situation and will move our restoration efforts to other areas if and as they become safe and accessible. We appreciate the continued understanding and ask customers to please prepare for possible extended outages as we conduct damage assessments and make extensive repairs."
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