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Hawaii fires fueled by invasive exotic grasses on abandoned farmland

The devastating wildfires that have burned Hawaii and destroyed much of the city of Lahaina on the island of Maui have been fueled by invasive alien species of grasslands that have grown on abandoned farms that used to grow pineapple and other crops.

Grasses, which grow faster after rainy winters, create fuel for wildfires and are the biggest factor in turning Hawaii from a place where wildfires are rare to a place where they are increasingly considered a risk familiar, like mainland California.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday:

The increase, fire experts say, is largely due to a major change in land use on the islands, specifically the abandonment of tens of thousands of hectares of pineapple and sugar cane fields that have opened the door to highly combustible non-native grasses.

Unlike California and other mainland states to the west, Hawaii hasn’t seen many wildfires historically, and its ecosystems evolved without it. Since the 1990s, however, the number of fires has increased along with the growth of invasive grasses, such as guinea grass, and shrubs in what were once extensive plantations. The University of Hawaii’s Ecosystem Extension Program cites a more than threefold increase in area burned in recent decades, compared to the average of the last century.

“It takes agriculture out of the land (and) fills it with combustible fuels, and nobody is doing anything about it.” [wildfire expert Clay] Sorry it didn’t say.

The chronicle he adds that higher temperatures and cycles of drought and rain, which some associate with climate change, have also contributed to the problem.

Like in California, though, where environmentalists and the courts have done it frustrated efforts to manage forests by removing potential fuel for wildfires, poor vegetation management on former farmland is a major factor in the recent occurrence of devastating wildfires.

Friday morning there were 55 people reported dead and 1,000 missing in Hawaii’s worst natural disaster and most devastating wildfire since the Camp Fire destroyed the city of Paradise in California in 2018, killing at least 85 people.

The immediate cause of the fire is unknown. The fire’s rapid spread was aided by wind gusts of 60 to 80 miles per hour, driven by Hurricane Dora, which parked several hundred miles off the coast and pushed wildfires on Maui toward west to Lahaina.

Joel B. Pollak is a senior editor at Breitbart News and host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot Sunday evenings from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. ET (4:00 to 7:00 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: “Comrade Kadalie, you are out of order”. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 US Presidential Election. He is the recipient of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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