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Hawaiian officials draw on wildfire lessons from the past

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Hawaiian officials draw on wildfire lessons from the past

The devastating wildfires in Hawaii have been heartbreaking from afar and their widespread impacts on the community continue to unfold.

Based on lessons learned from previous wildfires, officials are recommending people in Hawaii, especially those in hard-hit Maui, use bottled water or fill jugs at water tankers (called water buffalos) until safe drinking water service is restored.

The 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, California, and the California Tubbs Fire in 2017 “are the first known wildfires where widespread drinking water chemical contamination was discovered in the water distribution network,” according to a recent AWWA study.

Prior to the incidents in California, officials didn’t consider the fact that pipes not directly exposed to a fire could break or melt. However, once a pipe is compromised, contaminants can potentially find their way into the water.

Like the California wildfires, the Maui blaze damaged long stretches of pipe, allowing contaminants to possibly leach into the water, so officials in Hawaii have recommended residents get their water through other methods.

Water emergencies, such as the Maui wildfire, qualify as instances where bottled water serves a valuable purpose as an alternative to compromised tap water.

Those who wish to support disaster relief organizations working in Hawaii may consider:

  • World Central Kitchen: World Central Kitchen is on site in Maui, providing meals to first responders and families.
  • The American Red Cross: Red Cross disaster workers responded immediately, opening shelters across Maui to provide refuge for thousands of residents and tourists who have been displaced by the fires.
  • The Salvation Army is bringing food, shelter, hygiene items and emotional and spiritual care to survivors. The organization is providing thousands of meals to individuals and families at the Maui County Pukalani Shelter.
  • The Disability Hui led by the Hawaii State Council on Developmental Disabilities convened 16 partner organizations that serve people with disabilities and the aging community.
  • Americares emergency response experts in Hawaii are supporting the hardest hit communities. Teams are assessing the needs of local health care facilities and coordinating emergency shipments of medicine and relief supplies.
  • Samaritan’s Purse deployed North American Ministries assessment teams to determine relief and support with debris clearance and sifting.
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