How Often are there fires?
It seems as though every summer we have at least 1 fire on the south or west side of Maui. Some are very small and some huge. Sometimes they're started naturally and other times they are set by the hands of mentally disturbed arsonists.
The heat of summer in Maui creates quite a lot of dry brush. This combined with fast, hot winds makes for the perfect environment for out of control fires.
Most of the fires start either on the south or west side of the island. These areas don't receive the same rainfall that the East and North side get. Rain clouds dump most of their moisture on these faces when they reach altitude, which leaves the South and West with dry lands. Though this is perfect for sun tanning on our beaches in Maui, it makes for an ideal environment for fires to start.
One of the big problems stemming from these fires is the closure of Honoapiilani Highway. This road runs along the cliffy West coast of Maui and connects the West and Upper west with the rest of the island. Often, when fires start on that side, this road is cut off.
There is only one other road to take if you need to get to the rest of the island. Unfortunately, this road is long and dangerous. State Highway 340 (Kahekili Hwy) is a winding road that travels around the northwest side of the island. It hugs cliffs, and is often no wider than 1 car. During fires, this area is usually closed off to everyone except for those that live in Wailuku.
When the roads are a problem, call (808) 986-1200 for regular updates on road closures.
What To Do
If you see a fire, report it to the fire department immediately. If you're trapped in a fire, call 911. If you're told to evacuate, do it! If you have plans to travel around Maui and you know of a fire, take the time to figure out if it will be possible. It's best to stay on the side where you have your accommodations. If you're unable to get to where you're going due to road closures, call the number above.
For the Maui weather report and more Maui Natural Disasters, see Maui Tsunami.
Maalaea Night Fire Photos courtesy of Michael Gingerich Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.
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