Strong winds threaten to whip up ‘biggest ever’ wildfire on Hawaii’s Big Island

  • “It’s the biggest (fire) we’ve ever had on this island.”
  • Strong winds and generally dry conditions will continue throughout the Hawaiian islands on Tuesday.
  • Overall, across the nation Tuesday, 97 large fires were burning over 2,900 square miles in 12 states.

Predicted strong winds could fan the flames of the largest wildfire ever recorded on Hawaii’s Big Island, officials warned Tuesday. The fire forced thousands of people to flee and destroyed two homes over the weekend. 

Though the evacuation orders were lifted, authorities said they could be reinstated and that people should be ready to go again.

“It’s the biggest (fire) we’ve ever had on this island,” Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said of the more than 62-square-mile blaze. “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.”

One homeowner said he tried to protect his property but lost the battle as the wind picked up.

A U.S. Army aircraft from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade on Oahu prepares to drop water on a blaze in Hawaii on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021.

“I had a dozer on my lawn, my land, and I tried to make a fire break,” Joshua Kihe of the community of Waimea told Hawaii News Now. He said the fire destroyed his home, but he is planning to rebuild.  

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According to the National Weather Service, strong winds and generally dry conditions will continue throughout the Hawaiian islands on Tuesday, which will ease only slightly on Wednesday. 

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Sustained winds were forecast in the 18 to 20 mph range, and gusts were up to 40 mph.

Fires also continued to burn in the western U.S. Tuesday. California’s Dixie Fire – the state’s largest at 388 square miles – was 35% contained as of Tuesday morning, Cal Fire said. About 45 homes and other buildings have been destroyed in the fire, and another 3,000 remained threatened. 

The Bootleg Fire, the nation’s largest at 647 square miles, was 84% contained as of late Monday, though it isn’t expected to be fully under control until Oct. 1. 

Overall, across the nation Tuesday, 97 large fires were burning over 2,900 square miles in 12 states, the National Interagency Fire Center said. More than 22,000 wildland firefighters and support personnel were assigned to incidents across the country.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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