Author: Terry Collins

'The next Maui could be anywhere': Hawaii tragedy points to US wildfire vulnerability

Source(s): USA Today - Gannet Co. Inc.

[...]

Lessons learned from Maui wildfire: 'We're going to pay 10 times over'

In the 2021 Maui County report on wildfire prevention, officials were encouraged to take an "aggressive plan to replace hazardous fuel sources" that start wildfires.

Wildfire experts in Hawaii, including Camilo Mora, a climate scientist and professor at the University of Hawaii, Mānoa, said they have warned state officials for years that wildfire preparedness was essential. Mora said he was among many who cited that overgrown grasses and other quick-burning vegetation used as fuels put certain areas, including Maui, at risk.

Vegetation grows quickly amid rainfall, but also dries out in drought, Mora said. Left unattended, the vegetation is ripe for a quick burn during a fire. And that's what he believes happened in the Maui wildfire, as a result of not enough being done.

[...]

The 2021 report also said island communities are "particularly vulnerable because populations tend tobe clustered and dependent" on single highways. "Escape routes and evacuation locations and resources for populations impacted by fire incidents are also impeded by fire incursions," the report said.

Residents in Lahaina reportedly were having problems getting out of the popular residential and tourist town as traffic was at a complete standstill on Honoapiilani Highway, the main road, while the wildfire spread.

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