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Explained: What Caused Hawaii's Devastating Wildfires


Multiple wildfires are raging through Hawaii, especially on the island of Maui and Lahaina. So far, 89 people have died, thousands have been displaced and buildings and businesses have burnt down, making it one of the worst natural disasters to hit the US. The fires that started on Tuesday night, August 8, are yet to be brought under complete control by the crews.

The cause of the fires has not been determined yet. However, the National Weather Service had issued warnings for the Hawaiian Islands for high winds and dry weather, conditions ripe for wildfires, Reuters reported. As per the U.S. Forest Service, nearly 85% of U.S. wildfires are caused by humans, while natural causes include lightning and volcanic activity.

According to Elizabeth Pickett, co-executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, less than 1% of wildfires are due to natural causes. Notably, the Hawaiian Islands have six active volcanoes, including one on Maui.

Pickett told AP, “When you lose your soil, it’s really hard to restore and replant. And then the only thing that can really handle living there in many cases are more of those invasive species.”

Research scientist at the Yale School of the Environment, Jennifer Marlon in an interview with CNN said that such strange events are becoming common due to climate change.

Marlon said, “It’s very strange to hear about severe wildfires in Hawaii – a wet, tropical island – but strange events are becoming more common with climate change.”

According to the research scientist, Hawaii fires are fueled by a combination of strong winds and dry conditions, which get complicated by the island’s geography.

The Hawaii fire, so far, ranks as the second deadliest in the past 100 years, trailing California’s Camp Fire, in November 2018.

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