Hawaiian Jungle Fire: The Causes of the Catastrophic Mauna Fire

Hawaiian Jungle Fire: The Causes of the Catastrophic Mauna Fire

Last Updated: 10 August 2023By

At least six people lost their lives and many more were forced to flee the Hawaiian island of Maui on Tuesday night due to a quickly growing fire. Strong winds from tropical storm Dora fed the blaze that was started by the unheard-of Mauna Fire.

Due to the extreme winds and dry circumstances, the fire raced with astounding speed. Some locals jumped into the water to escape the flames and smoke since it spread so quickly. Firefighters are still battling the blaze as it spreads to many other locations, including the ancient city of Lahaina.

“This catastrophe is the worst we’ve ever experienced. Lahaina is now nothing but ash. Mason Jarvi, a Lahaina resident who left the city, described it as being like the end of the world.

Five emergency shelters have been opened, according to the Hawaiian Department of Transportation, and about 4,000 visitors are still trying to flee western Maui. Officials have ordered a mandatory evacuation of the western section of the island, barring emergency workers and evacuees, as firefighters struggle to put out the three big flames.

However, how did the Mauna catastrophe start?

Hawaiian Jungle Fire: The Causes of the Catastrophic Mauna Fire-RE

Wind gusts that exceeded 60 mph are believed to have caused the fire to initially consume vegetation before quickly spreading to residential areas by shaking the island. The fire spread quickly and menacingly, reaching Lahaina’s coastal regions and eventually entering the city’s core. Even timber buildings from the 1700s that are designated as national historical sites were affected by the fire.

Roads were crowded with traffic, some of which were obstructed by flaming debris. Responders from the U.S. Coast Guard saved 14 people on Tuesday, including two kids, who had dove into the ocean to escape the flames.

“This was a classic wildland-urban interface fire,” said climate scientist Daniel Swain, “where the wildland fire was within the forest but it spread into urban areas and ignited structures.”

But what started the fire in Hawaii, and why?

The fire was aggravated by the island’s exposure to strong winds and low humidity, while the specific cause is yet unknown. Due to these conditions, the National Weather Service had issued a warning that there was a higher chance of fire, which could potentially spread quickly.

Hawaii was caught in the midst of its dry season while dealing with drought conditions when Hurricane Dora delivered exceptionally strong gusts. The island was caught between a high-pressure system to the north and a low-pressure system brought by Hurricane Dora hundreds of miles distant, according to Jeff Powell, a meteorologist in Honolulu. This pressure differential fuelled abnormally powerful winds, which helped start devastating fires.

In reality, research show that down-slope winds, which are responsible for 60% of structural losses and 52% of fatalities in forest fires since 1999, are a significant cause of flames in western America.

What part does the changing climate play in wildfires?

Extreme weather events and increased severity brought on by climate change are fueling fire problems throughout the world, including blazes like the Maui fire.

According to Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia’s Tree Ring Lab, “Climate change-related disasters like this are really beyond the scope of the things we’re used to dealing with.” The tragedy is mostly being driven by these several interrelated, complicated difficulties, according to experts.

By boosting temperatures, climate change not only makes fire hazards worse but also makes strong storms more likely. Events like the Mauna fire, which was sparked by strong winds, can be made better by these storms. 

Hawaiian Jungle Fire

Experts have emphasised that a variety of variables, including the climate issue, affect catastrophes like the Mauna fire.

The scenario in Hawaii is reminiscent of pictures of destruction that occurred elsewhere in the world last summer when flames were sparked by record-breaking heat and made evacuations necessary in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and other countries in Europe. The harsh weather also caused unheard-of flames in Western Canada.