How Bad Are U.S. Wildfires? Even Hawaii Is Battling a Surge.

The expense of renting helicopters, which can cost more than $1,000 an hour, plus the geography of the state, an island chain in the Pacific, also weigh on the minds of firefighters.

“It’s not like the mainland where you can drive in crews from other states,” said Kevin Kaneshiro, 37, the captain at the nearby fire station in Honoka’a, which responded to the Pa’auilo fire. “You have to make do with what you have.”

Mr. Mora, who has a project to bolster native vegetation by planting thousands of trees around Hawaii, said that the spike in wildfire activity also stems from social problems, such as the islands’ acute housing shortage.

“Many of the wildfires here get triggered by the homeless, who mean no harm,” Mr. Mora said. “These people need to eat, they need to cook their own food, next thing you know a tiny accident triggers a blaze.”

In Pa’auilo, residents remain unnerved by just how close the recent wildfire got to their homes. Some areas alongside the fire scar were still smoldering in late June, with residents calling the local fire station to extinguish the pop-up blazes.

As if highlighting the risks, guinea grass has already begun sprouting on land blackened by the fire. Cole Ahuna, whose home was almost consumed by it, wondered what could happen if the grasses continue to grow, the dry weather persists and the winds pick up again.

“The fire got all the way to the horse pasture before the dozers came and cut it off,” said Mr. Ahuna, 19. “Something like this was unheard of around here when I was growing up. Now it’s a different world.”



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