It has been over a month since the disastrous fires engulfed Lahaina, Maui. With 97 confirmed dead and 31 still missing, it is the most catastrophic wildfire in the US ever recorded in the last century. With an event like this occurring, the question of whether or not climate change played a role, is being asked around the globe.
According to The Guardian, these fires “broke out as the island faced strong winds and low humidity that the National Weather Service had warned would bring high fire danger with the risk of rapid spread.” Even though the National Weather Service issued a warning, there have been disputes over the lack of siren sounds.
According to Darryl Oliveira, head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, alarms were not sounded due to the fear that civilians would run inland, where the fires were happening. Oliveira feared such a reaction because the sirens were made for tsunamis, and in this instance, civilians would run inland. Many people disagree with this action and believe an alarm would have helped people evacuate and bring attention to the rapid fires sooner.
These fires have brought attention to the pressing issue of our planet’s longevity. Many people believe that not only this fire, but others including the California fires and Canada fires, are due to climate change.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reference a 2016 study saying that climate change enhanced the drying of organic matter and doubled the number of large fires between 1984 and 2015.”
The California fires have been talked about for the last year due to their ongoing presence. As of right now, according to the California government website, there have been a total of 5,280 wildland fires in the state in 2023. As for Canada, the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service announced that this 2023 wildfire season has been the worst in terms of the extent of burned land and amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
Though it is still too early to see how or if global warming could a catalyst for the Maui fires, it is not obscure to relate it to dry climates in California and Canada. However, as stated earlier, low humidity in the area could’ve caused the fire to begin in Maui. With a fire this size, there are also consequences regarding the after effects.
The main water source for Lahaina is underground aquifers, which got severely damaged in the fire. Additionally, the byproducts of a fire this size have raised many concerns about the safety of the air due to toxic chemicals. These chemicals also are being swept into groundwater as well as the ocean.
As a society, it is critical to understand how to help prevent wildfires. The U.S. Department of the Interior has a list of things to help. Also, if you want to take part in aiding the damages and people of Lahaina, you can go to mauicounty.gov and donate today.