- Hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.
- The fires have burned structures and prompted evacuations in Maui.
- Hurricane Dora is partly to blame for helping to kick up the strong winds.
At least six people are dead in wildfires burning on the Hawaii island of Maui.
"We are still in search and rescue mode so I don’t know what will happen to that number,” Maui County Mayor Richard Bisson said in a news conference happening now. “We’ve had many dwellings, businesses, structures that have been burnt, many of them to the ground."
Hospitals on Maui are overwhelmed with patients suffering from burns and smoke inhalation, flames torched buildings in a popular historic district and tourists are stranded as the wildfires rage.
At least three people were flown to a burn unit in Honolulu. All were in critical condition, according to a spokesperson there.
A dozen people were rescued by the Coast Guard after jumping into the ocean to reportedly avoid the flames.
Two of the fires are located on Maui in the Upcountry and Lahaina areas. It's believed that much of the historic district was destroyed by the wildfire.
Here's what's happening now.
Table of Contents
(4:06 p.m. ET) Hawaii Officials Holding News Conference
A news conference has just started. “It is really just with sadness and heartache that we are at this press conference,” Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke said on a live feed.
(3:39 p.m. ET) Maui Issues Island-Wide Water Conservation Request
The Department Of Water Supply is advising consumers to limit their water use to reduce demand and extend existing supplies.
“The Water Department is working diligently to ensure our resources are used as efficiently as possible and we need the community to do their part,” the agency said in a statement.
Water conservation efforts include refraining from washing cars as well as not hosing down sidewalks and driveways or watering lawns.
(3:33 p.m. ET) Why Wildfire Smoke Is So Dangerous
Wildfire smoke is made up mainly of microscopic particulate matter 30 times smaller than the diameter of a strand of hair. The particles include acids, chemicals, metals, soil and dust. When inhaled, they can go deep inside the lungs and bloodstream.
Research has shown smoke from wildfires is 10 times more hazardous to humans than similar pollution from other sources. The CDC says breathing in wildfire smoke can cause coughing, shortness of breath, increased heart rate and other immediate effects, even in healthy people.
Here are some ways to avoid the danger.
(3:04 p.m. ET) Governor: 'Some Loss Of Life Is Expected'
In a new update, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said: "We have suffered a terrible disaster ... Much of Lahaina on Maui has been destroyed and hundreds of local families have been displaced ... Heroic efforts by first responders have prevented many casualties from occurring, but some loss of life is expected."
(2:45 p.m. ET) Here’s Where Drought Is Helping Make Hawaii Fires Worse
Portions of Maui are in a moderate to severe drought, and dry fuels and low humidity are playing a role in the fire danger. A(2:33 p.m. ET) Video Shows Flames Burning Lahaina Historic District
(2:33 p.m. ET) Video Shows Flames Burning Lahaina Historic District
Witnesses watched in horror as flames engulfed Front Street in downtown Lahaina. Buildings there date back to 1834. You can watch the video here.
(2:12 p.m. ET) Hawaiian Airlines Offers Travel Waivers
Hawaiian Airlines tweeted that they will allow travelers to refund or change their flight to a different date without penalty. Six percent of the airline’s flights have been delayed and two flights have been canceled so far on Wednesday, according to FlightAware.com.
Four percent of flights into Kahului Airport (OGG) have been canceled and 10 percent have been delayed. About 1,800 people took shelter at the airport Tuesday night after many west side highways were closed, Hawaii News Now reported.
(1:39 p.m. ET) High Wind Warning Canceled
From weather.com senior meteorologist Chris Dolce: Winds have dropped below high wind warning criteria from the National Weather Service, so that's why the warning was dropped. But, a red flag warning remains in effect until 6 p.m. HST since gusty winds and low humidity are still in play the rest of the day, keeping a heightened fire danger in place. Winds will continue to slacken tonight and Thursday as the pressure gradient between distant Hurricane Dora and high pressure to the north relaxes.
(1:29 p.m. ET) 'Like Being In A Movie You Don't Want To Be In'
Cousins Jasmine McIntyre and Melissa McIntyre from Connecticut are on a girls trip to Maui. They fled their vacation rental Tuesday afternoon and ended up sleeping in their car in the parking lot of an evacuation shelter at Maui High School.
“It’s like being in a movie you don’t want to be in," Jasmine McIntyre said.
Now they're trying to figure out what to do next.
“The airport is inundated with people right now trying to do the same thing," Melissa McIntyre said.
(1:21 p.m. ET) At Least One Person In Critical Condition
At least one of the burn patients flown to the island of Oahu is in critical condition, Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokesperson Shayne Enright told the AP. The patient, a woman in her 60s, is in the burn unit at Honolulu hospital.
(1:17 p.m. ET) Evacuation Sites Relocated
The Lahaina Civic Center evacuation site has been moved to Maui Preparatory Academy in Napili-Honokowai to distance evacuees from Lahaina Town, Maui County officials reported in their latest press release. As a precaution, residents at the Kihei Community Center Evacuation Site have also been relocated to Maui High School in Kahului. Officials say that at least 1,200 have taken shelter in the school.
Other emergency shelters include Mayor Hannibal Tavares Community Center, War Memorial Gym and Kahului Airport. Evacuees are reminded that emergency shelters do not provide bedding, toiletries or personal care products. Pet owners will need to ensure their animals are properly restrained.
(12:44 p.m. ET) At Least Three Burn Victims Are Being Treated On Oahu
Emergency service officials said in a morning update that they are treating three burn victims who have been sent from Maui to the island of Oahu where Honolulu is located, KHON-TV reports. They expect more victims to be flown off the island.
(12:36 p.m. ET) Fate Of Lahaina’s Famous Banyan Tree Unknown
There are fears that a massive banyan tree popular with visitors and honeymooners in Lahaina has been lost to the flames. The sprawling tree is the size of an entire city block along the town's Front Street and is more than 60 feet tall, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority. It was brought over from India and planted in 1873.
(12:23 p.m. ET) Fires Spotted On Satellite
Hot spots from the destructive wildfires were spotted from space by NOAA’s GOES-18 satellite. The loop above shows where a special sensor onboard the satellite was able to detect heat from the fires, including in Lahaina on Maui’s western side. "This satellite sensor is very useful since it can give information about a fire’s location, size and intensity, even at night," weather.com senior meteorologist Chris Dolce said. "Sometimes the sensor can even detect wildfires that break out before they are spotted on the ground."
(12:01 p.m. ET) Maui Schools Closed
From a tweet by the Hawaii Department of Education: "With the exception of Hana High & Elementary in East Maui, all other HIDOE public schools on Maui will be closed to students and staff today due to the ongoing wildfires and evacuations on the island."
(11:50 a.m. ET) Sunrise Will Give Better Look At Damage
It's currently 5:50 a.m. in Lahaina. Sunrise is at about 6:05 a.m. “Right now it is all-hands-on-deck and we are anxious for daybreak,” County of Maui spokesperson Mahina Martin told The Associated Press earlier this morning.
(11:43 a.m. ET) All Roads Closed In Lahaina
Maui Officials issued an update stating that all roads in the town of Lahaina are closed and will be open to emergency personnel only. This includes “roads between Wahikuli wayside park on the north, to Kai Hele Ku Street to the south.” Evacuations continue to be underway across Maui.
(11:39 a.m. ET) How Hurricane Dora Is Playing A Role
"Even though Hawaii is not getting directly hit by Hurricane Dora, it's definitely been enough to really fan those flames and make the fires pretty hard to get under control," weather.com meteorologist Ari Sarsalari said. You can watch his full explanation here.
(11:27 a.m. ET) Hawaii’s Leeward Side Is Most Prone To Fires
The "leeward" slopes of Hawaii's mountains are much drier than the "windward" slopes. These areas located on the west side of Hawaii's islands usually receive significantly less rainfall each year and are more susceptible to fires.
"That's because typical trade winds from the northeast or east blow up the slopes of the island's mountains, occasionally deposit so-called "mauka" or mountain showers, then descend down the western slopes and dry out," said weather.com senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman.
Lahaina has seen the brunt of the island's recent wildfires. The area sees only about 0.23 inches of rain in August, its driest month on average.
(11:13 a.m. ET) Lahaina Was Once Capital Of Hawaiian Kingdom
Lahaina is a popular tourist destination on the island of Maui's northwestern tip. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii from 1820 to 1845. The Lahaina Historic District is a National Historic Landmark, designated as such by the National Park Service in 1962. About 12,500 people live in Lahaina, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The total population of Maui is about 164,000. Nearly 3 million people visited the island last year, according to data from Hawaii's state tourism department.
(10:59 a.m. ET) 'I Saw Lahaina Burning As We Escaped'
Charter boat captain Heather Coyne posted this on Facebook early this morning: "I’m at a total loss. We are ok and safe. I can’t believe the fire in Lahaina is real. I am so unbelievably sorry for the families that are losing homes, folks losing businesses, families losing loved ones, boats that are burning and are lost. People jumping in the water. . . To escape the flames. I saw Lahaina burning as we escaped … I pray that it’s not as bad as it looks."
(10:54 a.m. ET) Gusty Winds Continue On Maui
Winds are still gusting about 15 to 20 mph, but relief is coming.
“As Dora moves away the winds will slowly die down later today into tonight,” weather.com senior meteorologist Jonathan Erdman said.
(10:43 a.m. ET) Winds Hamper Firefighting Efforts
Winds are keeping helicopters from fighting the fires from the sky. Firefighters are also faced with roads blocked by downed trees and power lines, The Associated Press reported.
(10:34 a.m. ET) At Least One Home Damaged On Hawaii’s Big Island.
It's not just Maui where fire's are burning. “We're trying to protect homes in the community,” Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth told The Associated Press. About 400 homes in four communities in the northern part of the island have been evacuated. The roof of at least one home caught on fire, Roth said.
(10:23 a.m. ET) Widespread Power Outages
More than 14,000 homes and businesses on Maui are without power, according to PowerOutage.us. That's about one in five customers on the island.
(9:45 a.m. ET) Residents Lose Everything
"Our house was gone. Everything that we’d ever known was gone," Lahaina resident Dustin Kaleiopu told Hawaii News Now. "Our church, our schools, every single memory we had on this household ... everything was gone in the blink of an eye."
Multiple evacuation orders are in effect for the island, according to a press release from Maui County. All of the fires remain uncontained, Maui County Chief of Communications and Public Affairs Mahina Martin told The Weather Channel in an interview just prior to 9 a.m. EDT.
(6:30 a.m. ET) Maui Hospital Gets Burn Patients
"911 is down. Cell service is down. Phone service is down," Hawaii Lt. Gov. Sylvia Luke told CNN. "Our hospital system on Maui, they are overburdened with burn patients, people suffering from inhalation."
The fires have been fanned by wind gusts of 40 to 60 mph.
Hurricane Dora helped induce the strong winds over the Hawaiian Islands by enhancing a pressure gradient. That means it helped kick up the strong winds in tandem with high pressure to the north.
Making matters worse, parts of Maui are in moderate to severe drought as of the latest U.S. Drought Monitor update.
Acting Gov. Sylvia Luke issued an emergency proclamation on behalf of Gov. Josh Green, who is traveling, and activated the Hawaii National Guard, the Associated Press reported.
(Chris Dolce and Sean Breslin contributed to this article)
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