Why fire is a growing risk in Hawaii

Smoke rises from remnants of burned homes and buildings in a community by the shoreline.
An aerial image taken on August 10th, 2023, shows destroyed homes and buildings on the waterfront burned to the ground in Lahaina in the aftermath of wildfires in western Maui, Hawaii. | Photo by Patrick T. Fallon / AFP via Getty Images

Maui faces a long road to recovery from the devastating blazes this week — Hawaii’s deadliest natural disaster since 1960. At least 55 people have died. Lahaina, the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom for a time before the US annexed the islands in 1898, is still smoldering.

Fire experts in Hawaii knew the land was primed to burn. It hasn’t always been that way; fire risk arrived on the islands relatively recently in Hawaii’s history. That risk is growing, but there’s a lot that communities can do to adapt.

To understand how fire came to be a looming threat in Hawaii and what to do about it, The Verge spoke with Elizabeth Pickett, co-executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization. The nonprofit organization works with…

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