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Following the Maui incident, Hawaii lawmakers have allocated funds for firefighting equipment and appointed a state fire marshal

Firefighters clears the debris (Via Hannah Bracewell/Shutterstock)

Hawaii lawmakers approved funds for additional firefighting equipment and the establishment of a state fire marshal following the deadliest wildfire in over a century that devastated Lahaina on Maui. The state legislature, in its first session since the August 8 blaze claimed 101 lives, passed these measures, which now await Governor Josh Green’s approval.

Climate change has exacerbated drought conditions in Hawaii, drying out vegetation across the islands and increasing the threat of destructive wildfires. While such fires were uncommon in Hawaii in the past, their frequency has risen in recent years.

Shortly after the Maui wildfire last year, another significant fire burned a large area of the Oahu Forest National Wildlife Refuge near Honolulu, about 20 miles away.

Representative Kyle Yamashita, chair of the House Finance Committee, emphasized the shift in Hawaii’s status as a wildfire-prone state. He stressed the need for updated policies and procedures to mitigate fuel risks and other factors contributing to wildfires.

In response to the Lahaina disaster, lawmakers allocated $1 billion for various expenses, including $500 million for emergency housing and $124 million in rental assistance for residents ineligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid.

View after the wildfire in Lahaina (Ash Starc/Getty Images)

Additionally, $65 million was earmarked for a victims relief fund to assist those who lost family members or suffered severe injuries. Contributions to the fund are also being made by Hawaiian Electric Industries, Kamehameha Schools, and Maui County.

House Speaker Scott Saiki highlighted the legislature’s focus on addressing immediate needs in Lahaina and broader statewide challenges posed by climate change. He underscored the importance of preparing for future risks such as wildfires, sea-level rise, and hurricanes.

The cause of the Lahaina wildfire remains under investigation, with a report expected from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives before the first anniversary of the blaze.

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