Big Island Fires, Maui Fires, and Climate Change

By August 15, 2023About Hawaii

As the aftermath of the fire on Maui unfolds, there is a lot of speculation as to why the fire happened and why it could not be contained.  I am sure it will take months to determine what could have been done differently to avoid such a catastrophic event.  While the fire in Lahaina, Maui was significantly worse, at the same time there was a relatively good sized fire on the Big Island of Hawaii.  People in favor of global warming have used both as examples of what global warming can do.  With their speculation of that they show that they minimal if any knowledge of the Hawaiian Islands.

The Hawaiian Islands are part of a volcanic chain so at the core each island is made up of volcanic rocks.  There are several ways in which the rock hardens, but in many places you find the a’a rock.  These are very sharp rocks.  Regardless of which type of rock you find, for the most part you will not see large amounts of vegetation growing within them and mostly weeds.

hawaii-firesLiving on the Big Island of Hawaii for over 20 years, there tends to be at least 1-2 relatively large fires a year all all seem to follow the same pattern.  We have a time of descent rain, which makes the island green and the weeds grow in the lava rocks.  Following that we have a period of minimal rain and these weeks that had grown now become dry setting the stage for a very easy fire that can burn thousands of acres just by a cigarette getting thrown out of a window.

This summer that stage got set on both islands.  We saw above average rainfall in the early summer which was followed by a period of dryness.  That got mixed with hurricane Dora, which brought gusts of winds up to 60 mph on Maui and 80 mph on the Big Island.  What was likely a small fire started on each island and the winds caused it to spread rapidly.  For Lahaina, the fire began near a populated area of older homes, which made it easy to spread.  Luckily on the Big Island of Hawaii there was minimal nearby population.

The other issue the large winds brought for both islands is that helicopters are a large part of how fires are handled on the islands.  They take large containers out to the ocean and fill them with water and then dump them on the fire.  They also get an aerial viewpoint of where the fire is the strongest.  Due to the high winds the helicopters could not get into the air to support.  On the Big Island, due to the lava rocks being so sharp most fire trucks can not access certain areas.

As you can see there were several factors that caused the fires to happen.  None of which seem to be directly related to global warming.  Hawaii has located near the equator, which makes it a warm, dry place and a great vacation destination.  That added with a hurricane, which have been around for thousands of years, made for this disaster.  I am sure in the days to come there will be many things uncovered as to how things could have been handled better.  For now our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of Lahaina, Maui.

If you had a scheduled vacation to Maui and it got canceled, we would be happy to help you find a vacation rental on the Big Island of Hawaii.