This story was originally published by the WND News Center.
Whenever there's a natural disaster like a wildfire, whether it came completely from nature or it was helped along by some manmade reason such as the neglected campground fire that sparked a Colorado wildfire a few years ago that scorched some 100,000 acres, there are stories that pop up about what went on.
The case of the Maui wildfires is no different.
In this situation, there are multiple reports that the conflagration that burned Lahaina and surrounding areas, leaving behind a death toll at 100 and rising, was sparked by "directed energy weapons."
One online video explained the fire was not normal because Lahaina was surrounded by open plains, not forests, Some trees were passed over by the fire, some houses and cars were not burned, and even parts of some vehicles were burned, while other parts were not.
See the arguments:
The actual cause of the flames isn't precisely known yet. CBS News documents the region was under a "red flag warning" for high fire danger, including very dry conditions, high winds from a passing storm, low humidity, and power lines were snapping in the violent weather.
But Hawaii Gov. Josh Green had an immediate target for the blame: "It's a product, in my estimation, of certainly global warming combined with drought, combined with a super storm, where we had a hurricane offshore several hundred miles, still generating large winds."
And that set the stage for legacy reporting to pin the blame on those DEW reports. In fact, the BBC openly blamed "politically motivated activists seeking to downplay the potential impact of climate change" for the DEW reports.
Its reporting debunked various images online, including one showing "a large explosion in Maui" that actually was a transformer explosion in Chile, an image of Waiola Church purportedly revealing a beam of light that wasn't there in the original, and more.
The BBC cited other displays of "evidence." "One shows a fireball and a bright streak of light rising towards the night sky. It, too, has been accompanied by claims that wildfires are not a natural phenomenon. But a search on the internet for previous versions of this image reveals the photo shows a controlled burn at an Ohio oil refinery and was first posted online in January 2018. The streak of light, known as a 'light pillar,' is an optical illusion formed by reflections off ice crystals on a cold day."
Various reports from International Business Times, USA Today, Newsweek, Yahoo, and Forbes also pushed back on the idea that the fires were anything but a natural disaster, and leftist "fact-checkers" at AP, Politifact, and Snopes joined in.
BBC's explanation continued:
There are claims circulating about videos from Maui showing some trees still standing while houses and vehicles have been burned, with people pointing to the pictures as "evidence" that the fires were deliberately set or that their real cause is being hidden from the public.
One post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, includes a video of the destruction and the message: "Everything is burnt but the trees, but don't point that out or you're a conspiracy theorist." That post has been seen more than 24 million times.
But the photo - which was challenged by X's Community Notes feature, where users add context and facts around viral content - clearly shows burnt vegetation, along with some still-standing palm trees.
Some plants, known as pyrophytes, have adapted to survive wildfires due to thermal insulation or other means.
The report also cited the rumors and speculation regarding the ownership of the land, and how some "second-home owners" started fires to grab valuable land.
Among the causes under investigation, CBS reported, is that Hawaiian Electric, which runs Maui Electric, failed to implement "precautionary safety measures" that are intended to reduce wildfire risk.
"Citing documents, a Washington Post report published Saturday noted that the provider did not shut off electricity to areas where strong winds were expected and could spark flames," the report said.
A utility statement on the question said, "Hawaiian Electric has a robust wildfire mitigation and grid resiliency program that includes vegetation management, grid hardening investments, and regular inspection of our assets. The company has protocols that may be used when high winds are expected, including not enabling automatic reclosure of circuits that may open during a weather event."
National Weather Service had pointed out the predicted high winds, up to 80 mph, and the "fire weather (due to ongoing dry conditions)" present at the time.
Complicating the situation was confirmation from state officials that Maui's warning sirens apparently were not triggered when flames appeared, with officials instead sending alerts to mobile phones, TV, and radio stations.
While authorities report most wildfires are sparked by negligent human behavior, unattended campfires, discarded cigarettes, and the like, two significant natural causes are lightning and strong winds that break power lines.
CBS also blamed "climate change," stating, "The wildfire season has been severe in Canada and across North America this year, as warm and dry conditions persist while various sections of the continent experience record heat and drought as a result of climate change."
Smithsonian Magazine also contributed to the conversation about the cause, which was undetermined.
"Investigators do know, however, one factor that made the fires so deadly: invasive grass that had transformed the island into a giant tinderbox," the report said.
It pinpointed a problem that was unrelated either to "climate change," which was known as "global warming" until the warming halted, or claims of strange weapons:
For nearly 200 years, Hawaii’s economy was highly dependent on sugar cane and pineapple agriculture. But plantations began declining in the 1990s as the state transitioned to a tourism-dominated economy, report Simon Romero and Serge F. Kovaleski for the New York Times. Vast swaths of farming acreage were abandoned, and in 2016, Hawaii’s last sugar cane plantation shuttered.
Without farmers tending that land, non-native brushes such as guinea grass, molasses grass, and buffel grass moved in. These species are native to Africa and were introduced to Hawaii in the late 18th century by European ranchers who wanted a steady supply of drought-resistant livestock forage. Today, almost a quarter of Hawaii’s land cover consists of these invasive shrubs. They run amok on the tens of thousands of acres of plantations on which sugar cane and pineapple plants once flourished. Hardy, voracious, and opportunistic, they invade roadside shoulders and encroach on urban housing areas.
“Those fire-prone invasive species fill in any gaps anywhere else—roadsides, in between communities, in between people’s homes, all over the place,” Elizabeth Pickett, co-executive director of the Hawaii Wildfire Management Organization, tells Wired’s, Matt Simon.
The non-native grasses spread easily during the rainy season and dry out during droughts. At a time such as this summer, when the landscape is arid, the plants’ desiccated and dormant state makes them highly flammable. And after a fire burns through, some of these species are adapted to recover quickly—as a result, they are first to repopulate the scorched Earth, crowding out native plants as they proliferate. This “grass-fire cycle” makes the invasive grasses more prevalent after a blaze, leaving the land more susceptible to another fire, write Scott Dance and Kate Selig for the Washington Post.
Scientists have long known about these invasive species’ potential to burn. In 2018, fires broke out on West Maui and destroyed 21 homes, in part thanks to these grasses. Researchers estimate 85 percent of the razed areas in the 2018 fire were nonnative shrub lands, per the Post. After that disaster, one of the island’s most prominent fire experts, University of Hawaii plant ecologist Clay Trauernicht, published a letter asserting that “all that grass” could fuel future incidents. In 2021, a Maui County report also warned about the rampantly spreading shrubbery and called for its reduction.