Maui wildfire one of deadliest in U.S. history
*Since this blog was first published, the death toll has continued to climb. As of August 25, the reported number of deaths is 115.
According to NFPA research, this week’s Lahaina Fire death toll, now at 80 people, is among the top ten deadliest wildfires on record since 1871.
“Through a deadly combination of human and natural causes, we now see unprecedented wildfires in every corner of the globe and in communities that were previously not viewed as high risk,” said NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley. “This painful and tragic reality was on full display in Maui as wind driven fires overwhelmed the small island.”
Pauley’s statements are reinforced in additional facts from NFPA research including that four of the deadliest wildfires in the U.S., including this one, have occurred since 2017.
He continued, “While voluntary actions to mitigate property have proved successful to an extent, the sheer volume of communities at risk requires changes to where we build, how we build, and what we do to existing properties through stronger policies to create a built environment better able to withstand such massive devastation.”
Today there are nearly 45 million homes in the wildland/urban interface (WUI). According to the National Interagency Fire Center, some 71.8 million properties in the U.S. are at some level of risk from wildfire. Each year some of the largest-loss fires occur in the WUI.
In the past five years, wildfires have destroyed nearly 63,000 structures in the U.S., the majority of which were homes. Record high temperatures, serious drought conditions, and high winds from severe weather events such as thunder and lightning storms have been blamed for the recent increase in wildfire activity in Canada, Europe, and in high-risk areas across the U.S. Officials predict more wildfires will erupt in the coming months due to continued dry heat and increased storm activity, prompting residents to look for information on what they can do to reduce their risk before a wildfire.
In a media advisory this week, NFPA provided resources for media and the public on various aspects for the wildfire problem.
Additional information, resources, and articles:
- Outthink Wildfire™, a comprehensive strategy that lays out five key policy changes that need to be made at the federal, state, and local levels and if followed, will end the destruction of communities by wildfire over the next 30 years.
- Firewise USA® recognition program that empowers residents to work collaboratively in reducing wildfire risks.
- Prepare Your Home for Wildfire Fact Sheet
- Home Ignition Zone Checklist
- Wildfire Preparedness Tips
- NFPA/IBHS Wildfire Research Fact Sheet Series
- Blog: Clearing the Five-Foot Zone Around Your Home is Critical to Safety from Wildfires
- NFPA Journal, May 2023 Wildfire Column: Inflection Point
For additional resources and information, and to learn more about how to keep families safe and reduce homeowners’ risk for wildfire damage, please visit NFPA’s wildfire webpage.
For those seeking information on federal disaster assistance, please visit FEMA.