Aug 10, 2023
Last updated: Wednesday, August 9 at 5:35 PM EST.
Wildfires burned through parts of Hawaii Wednesday, killing at least six people. The out-of-control blazes even forced some Maui residents to jump into the ocean to flee the flames.
The hardest hit area seemed to be the town of Lahaina. Its population is 13,000. The flames whipped through parts of town. People had to evacuate. Traffic was snarled as residents scrambled to escape the fires. The US Coast Guard reported pulling a dozen people from the ocean. They had tried to swim away from the flames.
The fires have been fed in part by dry conditions and strong winds hundreds of miles to the south. Maui County's mayor said the fires killed six people. As of late Wednesday, however, it was unclear how many had been injured. The blazes disrupted cell phone service. They even stopped 911 calls from affected areas on Maui’s west side.
Sylvia Luke is Hawaii's lieutenant governor. She told CNN that injuries caused by the fires had strained the island’s hospital system. Luke said some patients needed to be flown off the island for burn treatment.
Meanwhile, an uncontained fire on the Big Island threatened roughly 200 homes around Kohala Ranch. According to PowerOutage.us, more than 14,500 customers had lost electricity.
Before humans came to the islands, fires were rare in Hawaii. Unlike the US West, local ecosystems developed without them. As a result, fires can cause heavy damage. The environment hasn't adapted to deal with them. Fires on these mountainous islands can strip vegetation from the sloping landscapes. That casts soil into the sea and can smother coral reefs.
Reflect: How do you think people can help prevent or manage wildfires to protect both nature and communities?
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