LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — A wildfire on Maui has likely incinerated homes near the tourist town of Lahaina while forcing people from an evacuation center opened as Hurricane Lane nears the island, officials said Friday.
“It is very likely that homes have been destroyed but our guys are too busy fighting the fire to be able to confirm structure damage,” Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said.
More than two dozen people taking shelter at a school were moved to a civic center because of the blaze. One woman suffered burns to her hands and legs, and was flown to Honolulu for treatment, Antone said.
The fire has burned more than 300 acres (121 hectares), but rains expected from the hurricane could provide relief. The cause of the fire is unknown.
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“We do not know if it’s storm-related. We have no point of origin for any obvious way that this could have started,” Antone said.
People living in more than 100 homes were evacuated, and about 900 people are staying at seven Maui shelters.
A second fire also started, prompting additional evacuations, but the number of households affected and acres burned were not immediately available.
Strong, swirling winds linked to the hurricane helped spread fire quickly. Maui is not in a drought, but Antone said the hills and valleys are dry.
“Lots of dry brush to fuel the fire and if you add some wind, it’s a bad situation,” he said.
Josh Galinato was trying to sleep when he smelled smoke in his Lahaina apartment. He opened his front door to see flames charging over a hill.
“I was like, ‘Are they burning the wood they just cleaned off the road?'” he said from a hotel where he was staying. “I opened up my front door and I just saw the fire spreading and coming downhill.”
He went outside where neighbors were watching the flames consume brush.
He said he had no warning from officials, but he and neighbors honked horns to alert others to the danger.
“I was just worried about tropical rainstorms and just wind and there you go, there’s a fire,” he said. “I didn’t expect that.”