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Wildfires burn Lahaina, Maui; prompt evacuations across Hawaii

A wildfire burns on the island of Maui near an intersection in Lahaina, Hawaii, August 9, 2023.

Zeke Kalua | County Of Maui | via Reuters

Wildfires burned across Hawaii on Wednesday after strong winds from Hurricane Dora and dry conditions ignited blazes and prompted evacuations across the state.

The Coast Guard rescued people from the ocean near Lahaina, Maui, as they went into the water to escape a fast-moving fire, NBC News reported, and the historic downtown area surrounding Front Street was partly destroyed, according to Hawaii News Now and other reports.

Acting Gov. Sylvia Luke issued an emergency proclamation Tuesday that said the fires had burned “hundreds” of acres and forced a number of schools and roads to close. Luke authorized the Hawaii National Guard to aid authorities with disaster relief.

Luke stepped in for Gov. Josh Green, who is traveling, but Green has been “fully briefed” on the situation, according to a release. Green will return to Hawaii on Aug. 15.

The emergency proclamation said evacuations were underway in the Kohala Ranch, Kula, and Lahaina areas, as the fires threaten to affect the health and welfare of “a substantial number of persons.” The disaster emergency relief period will continue through at least Aug. 15, the document said.

“Lieutenant Governor Luke has my full support,” Green said in a release. “My thoughts are with the residents and businesses affected by Hurricane Dora.”

Smoke blows across the slope of Haleakala volcano on Maui, Hawaii, as a fire burns in Maui’s upcountry region on Tuesday, Aug. 8. 2023. Several Hawaii communities were forced to evacuate from wildfires that destroyed at least two homes as of Tuesday as a dry season mixed with strong wind gusts made for dangerous fire conditions.

Matthew Thayer | The Maui News | AP

Hurricane Dora was not expected to make landfall in Hawaii and remained hundreds of miles south of the islands Wednesday, according to the National Hurricane Center. But the storm contributed to strong winds that downed a number of trees and powerlines.

The Honolulu National Weather Service shared a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday night telling residents to prepare for winds of 30 to 40 miles per hour and gusts up to 60 miles per hour.

“Secure property, expected outages & difficult travel,” the agency wrote.

The strong winds stalled firefighters and prevented helicopters from successfully dumping water onto the flames, County of Maui spokesperson Mahina Martin told the Associated Press on Tuesday.

The American Red Cross posted Wednesday on X that a number of shelters are open across the state to help those who have been affected by the fires and winds.

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