Windy and dry conditions could increase the risk of fires spreading in Hawaii, just three weeks after a deadly wildfire razed the Lahaina area of Maui.
The National Weather Service in Honolulu has issued a Red Flag Warning for the leeward portions of the Hawaiian Islands, which include Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Maui and the Big Island. The warning is in effect until 6 p.m. Thursday but has the potential to be extended.
According to officials, the warning was issued because of a combination of strong winds at 20 to 30 mph with gusts of 40 to 50 mph, low humidity dropping to 35% to 45%, and dry vegetation and other fuels that can ignite a fire and spread it rapidly.
"Last time we had similar conditions, multiple fires sprung up along our leeward coast. These fires can potentially put our firefighters and communities at large in harm’s way. By remaining mindful and refraining from potentially risky behaviors, we can significantly reduce the chances of large brushfires this time around," said Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth in a statement obtained by local news outlets.
However, these winds are not as powerful as those that fueled the deadly wildfire earlier this month; those were spread by wind gusts of up to 60 mph.
As of Wednesday, firefighters were still battling three fires: the Olinda fire, the Kula fire, and the Lahaina fire, all of which are anywhere from 85–90% contained.
Officials warn that heat from vehicle exhaust can ignite dry grass and recommend people park cars on areas that are paved or where vegetation is trimmed or cleared.
As Maui authorities conclude their land-based search efforts and transition to searching in the ocean, the confirmed death toll from the historic wildfires has remained at 115 for several days now, and many more are still missing.
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