Receive free Hawaii updates
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Hawaii news every morning.
A wildfire tore through the Hawaiian island of Maui on Wednesday, killing six people and destroying homes and businesses across the popular tourist haven.
The fires follow an unusually active wildfire season in the northern hemisphere, with smoke from millions of hectares of Canadian forest fires descending into New York earlier in the summer.
Firefighters on Maui battled multiple blazes over Tuesday and Wednesday, including in western Maui and a more inland, mountainous region. Fires raged across Lahaina, a historic tourist town.
Sylvia Luke, Hawaii’s acting governor, declared a state of emergency in the state on Wednesday.
Maui County mayor Richard Bissen confirmed on Wednesday morning that fires had killed six people on the island, and the number of homes and businesses damaged was not yet known. Search and rescue crews were looking for more people.
Bissen said that the cause of the fire was unknown but had broken out among “long term-dry conditions”.
Efforts to combat the blazes have been hamstrung by high winds caused by a nearby hurricane. Bissen said the conditions had stopped firefighters from being able to fly helicopters over the fires.
Hurricane Dora, which passed 500 miles south of Maui, according to the National Weather Service, was partly to blame for gusts of more than 60 miles per hour that knocked out power and grounded firefighting aircraft.
At about 5pm eastern time, close to 13,000 people were without power across the state, according to PowerOutage.com.
The fires coincide with the hottest June and July ever recorded. Earlier this month, scientists from the EU’s earth observation agency described “significant wildfire activity” around the Mediterranean in Greece, Algeria and Italy, along with the far east of Russia.
In Canada, 13mn hectares of boreal forest have burnt over the year to date, releasing 290 megatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere. There were more than 1,000 active fires still burning nationwide, including more than 600 classified as “out of control”, according to data from the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre.
In a research note, Copernicus — the EU’s earth observation agency — said warm and dry weather had created conditions conducive to the record-breaking scale of the 2023 wildfires, with climate change making such conditions more likely.
Much of western Maui was facing moderate drought conditions, according to the US Drought Monitor.