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Wind-whipped wildfire burns in Maui ahead of hurricane

Associated Press

LAHAINA, Hawaii – A wildfire on Maui has likely incinerated homes near the tourist town of Lahaina while forcing people from an evacuation center opened as Hurricane Lane nears the island, officials said Friday.

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

More than two dozen people taking shelter at a school were moved to a civic center because of the blaze. One woman suffered burns to her hands and legs, and was flown to Honolulu for treatment, Antone said.

The fire has burned more than 300 acres, but rains expected from the hurricane could provide relief. The cause of the fire is unknown.

“We do not know if it’s storm-related. We have no point of origin for any obvious way that this could have started,” Antone said.

Strong, swirling winds linked to 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 they just cleaned off the road?’ ” he said from a hotel where he was staying. “I opened up my front door and I just saw the fire spreading and coming downhill.”

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

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

“I was just worried about tropical rainstorms and just wind and there you go, there’s a fire,” he said. “I didn’t expect that.”

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