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Wildfires in Hawaii Prompt Frantic Evacuations

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Wildfires burning across parts of Hawaii early Wednesday damaged buildings and prompted evacuations and road closures. The fires were driven in part by high winds that were enhanced by Hurricane Dora, which was moving west across the Pacific hundreds of miles south of the islands.

On the western side of the island of Maui, residents fled from the flames and smoke by swimming into the ocean, where they were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, Maui County officials said.

Winds up to 45 miles per hour, with gusts of 60 m.p.h., were possible, said the National Weather Service, which warned residents on social media to secure property and expect outages and difficult travel.

Dora, a Category 4 storm, was more than 700 miles south of Honolulu late Tuesday and was not expected to make landfall in Hawaii. Although the hurricane was not directly responsible for the conditions in Hawaii, it has helped strengthen the winds, according to Robert Bohlin, a meteorologist in the Weather Service’s Honolulu office.

A firefighter on Maui was hospitalized with smoke inhalation but was in stable condition. There were no other immediate reports of deaths or injuries.

The fires in Hawaii and Maui Counties had already burned hundreds of acres by Tuesday, Sylvia Luke, Hawaii’s acting governor, said in an emergency proclamation that activated the National Guard.

In Maui County there were more than 15,800 power outages, according to poweroutage.us, which tracks outages across the United States.

The 911 emergency call service in West Maui was down early on Wednesday, and people were told to call the local police department directly instead, Maui County officials said.

Several parts of Maui were under evacuation orders. Two evacuation shelters closed because of the encroaching fire and people inside were sent to new locations, Maui County officials said.

In an interview on Wednesday, Margo Brousseau, 52, said that she could smell smoke at one evacuation site, Kihei Community Center, before the shelter was closed.

She and her family, who are visiting from Minneapolis, had been planning to spend the night at the shelter’s parking lot in a van that they rented after their flight home was canceled on Tuesday night.

Ms. Brousseau said that the airline staff told them: “There is nowhere we can put you because all of these hotels don’t have power and all these people are being evacuated from their own resorts, so we don’t have anywhere to offer you.”

They rented a van and went to see if they could find a hotel, but everywhere was closed or booked. Staff at one hotel gave her family towels to use as blankets and suggested places to park overnight.

Her family ended up at an evacuation site at Maui High School, where a worker told her there were more than 1,200 people inside. She said that people had cots and blankets on the ground, but many were still awake just before 3 a.m. local time.

Ms. Brousseau said she felt fortunate compared to a lot of people on the island and that the worst part was the lack of sleep and delay in getting home.

The Weather Service said that a red flag warning — indicating that critical fire conditions were occurring or would be shortly — was in effect for some areas of the Hawaiian islands.

Winds in Hawaii are expected to diminish on Wednesday as a high-pressure system to the north weakens and Dora moves west away from the islands, the Weather Service said.

Amanda Holpuch and Judson Jones contributed reporting.



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