A record-breaking wildfire burned amid drought in Hawaii, leading to mandatory evacuations and destruction of at least two homes on the Big Island. Authorities say this has been the largest fire experienced in Hawaii County.
A mandatory evacuation was ordered to Waikoloa Village area of Hawaii on Aug 1, 2021, but was lifted later on, with warnings for people to remain prepared.
"This is the largest fire that we've had here in Hawaii County," Cyrus Johnasen, director of communications for Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth, said of the more than 160 sq km blaze. "We would like folks to feel safe but not forget that this is an emergency."
Severe drought conditions in hawaii despite tropical climate
Unlike California wildfires and other similar burns in western US, Hawaii should have low risk of large fires as it is typically wet, associated with tropical climate. An occurrence of drought this severe was considered climate change-related. Generally, fires on the island's large grasslands break out in dry sides and much smaller compared to mainland. However, as temperature continues to spike and intensify, this event could become more frequent, according to authorities.
The US Drought Monitor confirms that the recent drought 'reached the most severe level' in some parts of Hawaii, and overall rainfall in recent years had declined.
Two homes had lost their properties to the Hawaii fire as wind picked up, while others 'scrambled to evacuate'.
"I had a dozer on my lawn, my land, and I tried to make a fire break," said Joshua Kihe of the community of Waimea when fire destroyed his home. "I definitely need to think of a plan because it's a life-changer," he added.
"I just seen the flames coming," Waimea resident Kanani Malakaua said. "I mainly got my important papers, made sure my kids were in the car, got my animals - but this is a very, very scary time for us."
As officials warned strong winds Monday, posing danger again, some neighborhoods are made inaccessible and nearby roads are closed temporarily.
"Our current wind forecast is showing wind patterns between 18 to 20 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph," Todd said Sunday night, "and so while throughout the evening our crews will be working to build fire breaks with dozers and back burns, this temporary lift on the mandatory evacuation may have to be reinforced later on due to prevailing weather patterns."
Several Fires in California and Oregon
Meanwhile, the drought-stricken California reached its largest, the Dixie Fire, covering about 1,005 sq km in mountains and destroyed 45 homes and other infrastructures. Absolute safety might not be certain any time soon as gusty winds continue to push flames through dry fuels on remote hillsides.
In southern Oregon, 50 new wildfires ignite over the weekend as hundreds of lightning struck parched forests within 24 hours. The nation's largest blaze has burned less than 161km away.
Officials say no homes were threatened, while firefighters and aircrafts try to control new fires.
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