How To Help Maui After Brush Fires Forced People To Evacuate

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A brush fire in the Hawaiian island of Maui has consumed at least 10,000 acres of land, fueled from Kahului to north Kihei by high winds. Through sugar cane fields and dry brush, the fires forced thousands of residents to evacuate. And though no deaths or injuries have yet been reported, those experienced with wildfires are cautioning that smoke inhalation can be incredibly harmful. While lots of the efforts are concentrated locally, there are other ways you can help Maui as the brush fires continue to blaze.

Though evacuated residents can already begin returning home after local firefighters fought to keep the fires relatively contained and away from power plants, Mayor Michael Victorino is urging residents to remain vigilant. By Friday morning, emergency shelters had closed, but shelters at the War Memorial Complex and Kamalii Elementary School are prepared to reopen if conditions take a turn for the worse. Though the fire is yet to be considered officially contained, the local fire department’s Air 1 and Air 2 helicopters should be resuming water drops on Friday.

According to a 2018 study by researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, these types of wildfires are expected to happen more frequently across the Hawaiian islands. The study concluded that climate change is contributing to wetter months — which encourage the growth of non-native grasses — prior to drought months. These drought months are in turn hotter because of climate change, according to the study, which is a recipe for fueling more wildfires. This week’s fires seem to serve as further evidence of the study’s claims, and relief efforts are likely to be ongoing.

Where To Stay Informed & Volunteer

If you want to stay alert when it comes to emergency developments in Maui, you can sign up to receive notifications from the Emergency Alert Program, and spread the word on social media.

And if you're in proximity to the fires, you can join Maui's Community Emergency Response Team and then receive training in basic emergency preparedness.

Especially in light of the crops and businesses impacted by the fires, the Maui Food Bank will likely have more mouths to feed than usual. You can donate to the Food Bank's efforts here.

Lastly, volunteers from the local branch of the American Red Cross helped run various shelters during the fire, and if those shelters re-open, you can bet they'll be there to help again. You can donate to their efforts here. Furthermore, if you're in Maui and need to request disaster relief assistance from the local Red Cross branch, you can call (808) 244-0051.

How To Help Animals

The Maui Humane Society was forced to evacuate hundreds of shelter animals at the onset of the fires, and has reportedly asked that anyone with cars and supplies come help transport animals and drop off supplies to the Maui High School parking lot in the event that the fires restart. You can donate to the Maui Humane Society here.

What To Watch Out For

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If you’re a resident of Maui — or a resident anywhere near heavy wildfires — emergency service organization Premier Restoration Hawaiʻi on Maui and Oʻahu released a list of tips for people who are impacted by smoke and soot damage. This 10-point post-fire safety list includes tips for protecting your home and listening to your body to make sure you’re not overworking it in the midst of dangerous contaminants.

As Maui recovers from this wildfire and potentially braces for more in the future, knowing what to do in the face of emergencies like this is of the utmost importance.