Report on Wildfires in Hawaii

August 15, 2023 10:14 AM

The following is the Aug. 15, 2023, Congressional Research Service Insight report, August 2023 Wildfires in Hawaii.

From the report

Due to dry and windy conditions, several damaging wildfires spread on the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Hawaii starting on August 8, 2023. On August 10, the affected areas received a presidential declaration of major disaster under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act; P.L. 93-288, as amended). The wildfires have caused fatalities and injuries, as well as damage to hundreds of structures across different communities on the two islands.

Winds and Wildfires on Maui and Hawaii Islands

Beginning on August 8 and 9, wildfires ignited on Maui and Hawaii islands and spread quickly due to strong winds. The National Weather Service (NWS) previously issued red flag warnings, meaning critical fire weather conditions are either occurring or expected, for the leeward side of the Hawaiian Islands for August 8 and 9. The NWS said Hurricane Dora, which passed about 500 miles south of the islands during the same time period, strengthened trade winds and caused gusts of about 60-80 miles per hour. The winds knocked out power, blocked roads with downed powerlines and other debris, grounded firefighting helicopters, and hampered firefighting efforts. Some communications, such as landlines, cellular services, and 911 services, were lost due to the winds and wildfires. As of August 14, 2023, the wildfires have caused more fatalities than any other U.S. wildfire in the past century. According to Maui County press releases and other sources, the wildfires have caused injuries and evacuations of more than 10,000 visitors and hundreds of residents and have forced some people to flee into the ocean. The U.S. Coast Guard, the Hawaii National Guard, and various Hawaii emergency services are responding by air, sea, and ground.

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