Wind-whipped wildfire burns in Maui ahead of the hurricane

LAHAINA, Hawaii – A forest fire on Maui has probably burned houses in the vicinity of the tourist town of Lahaina while forcing people out of an evacuation center was opened as the Hurricane Lane approaching the island, officials said Friday.

“It is very likely that the houses have been destroyed, but our boys are too busy fighting the fire to confirm the structure of damage,” Maui County spokesman Rod Antone said.

More than two dozen people to take refuge in a school were moved to a civic center as a result of the eruption. A woman who suffered burns to her hands and legs, and was flown to Honolulu for treatment, Antone said.

The fire has burned more than 300 acres (121 hectares), but the rains expected from the hurricane would provide relief. The cause of the fire is unknown.

“We do not know whether it is storm-related. We have no point of origin for the obvious way that this could begin,” Antone said.

Strong, swirling winds associated with the hurricane helped spread the fire quickly.

Josh Galinato was trying to sleep when he smelled smoke in his Lahaina apartment. He opened his front door to see flames charging over a hill.

“I was like, ‘Are they burning the wood that they just cleaned off the road?'” he said from a hotel where he was staying. “I opened my door and I saw the fire spreads and comes down.”

He went outside, where neighbors were watching the flames consume brush.

He said he had no warning from officials, but he and the neighbors honked horns to warn others of the danger.

“I was so concerned about tropical rain and wind only and there you go, there is a fire,” he said. “I did not expect that.”

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