"How Bad Are U.S. Wildfires? Even Hawaii Is Battling a Surge."

"It’s among the wettest places on the planet, but shifts in rainfall, invasive grasses and a housing shortage are driving a wildfire spike on the islands."

"PA’AUILO, Hawaii — The blaze first swept across parched fields of guinea grass. Then the flames got so close to Emma-Lei Gerrish’s house that she feared for her life.

“I was terrified it was going to jump the gulch,” said Ms. Gerrish, 26, whose Quaker family raises cows and sheep in the hills above Pa’auilo, a ranching outpost on Hawaii’s Big Island. “I’ve never seen a fire this large in my lifetime.”

By the time firefighters got the wildfire under control last month — with a mix of helicopters dropping water while residents drove bulldozers to create firebreaks — more than 1,400 acres had been burned, adding to the tens of thousands across the state since 2018.

Hawaii may be graced with tropical forests, making parts of the islands some of the wettest places on the planet, but it is also increasingly vulnerable to wildfires. Heavy rains encourage unfettered growth of invasive species, like guinea grass, and dry, hot summers make them highly flammable."

Simon Romero reports for the New York Times July 5, 2021.

Source: NYTimes, 07/07/2021