Story at a glance
- A wildfire in Hawaii prompted mass evacuation and burned more than 14,000 acres.
- The amount of acres burned by wildfires in Hawaii has jumped by 400 percent over the past century.
- Most fires on the islands are caused by human activity.
The American West isn’t the only region of the country hit hard by severe wildfires this year. Further westward into the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is experiencing one of the worst wildfires in state history.
Named the Mana Road Assist Incident, the wildfire has burned more than 40,000 acres in Hawaii County on Big Island and prompted multiple evacuations. It started on July 30, and as of Aug. 1, posed a threat to about 140 homes near the Puukapu Hawaiian Homeland and Waikii Ranch, which had a combined population of 560.
At least two homes were reportedly destroyed. Strong winds are a component in the spread of the fire.
Data from the U.S. Geological Survey shows that affected regions stretch to the Kemole Gulch next to the volcano Mauna Kea. Hawaii County issued mandatory evacuation orders for at least 440 residents as of Aug. 2.
“It’s the biggest (fire) we’ve ever had on this island,” Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth told The Associated Press. “With the drought conditions that we’ve had, it is of concern. You see something like this where you’re putting thousands of homes in danger, it’s very concerning.”
The state formally requested federal aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on Sunday. The agency approved Hawaii’s request the same day, noting the fire “threatened to become a major incident.”
The county also issued a Supplemental Emergency Proclamation to aid in the evacuation and control of the wildfire.
Hawaii has seen a staggering increase of wildfire burn area over 400 percent over the past century, according to state sources. Nonnative grasses and shrubbery produce significant amounts of fuel loads for wildfires on the archipelago. Fire incidents are more frequent in the drier parts of Hawaii and are almost always caused by humans.
The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that Big Island is in only a “moderate” state of drought.
Within the past decade, 1000 wildfires have burned more than 17,000 acres annually in Hawaii, with the percentage of total land acreages burned being either comparable or exceeding that scorched by wildfires in western continental U.S. states.