Maui wildfires: Mass. sending 2 emergency responders to help in Hawaii

Power and phone service were knocked out, complicating recovery efforts

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Two members of Massachusetts' top rescue organization are headed to Hawaii to help respond to the deadly wildfires that have devastated the island of Maui this week.

Massachusetts Task Force 1 is sending two logistics specialists — a public information officer and a structures specialist — to Hawaii, a representative for the FEMA-connected disaster response team told NBC10 Boston on Saturday.



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The death toll from the fires reached 89 later in the day, with more still missing amid the wind-fueled fires that swept across vast swaths of the island, destroying much of a town that once served as the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii. It's the deadliest wildfires in modern American history.

Drone footage shows the aftermath of the devastating wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, after it swept through the city, leaving scores of people dead and thousands homeless.

Power and phone service were knocked out, complicating recovery efforts. It made it hard for Marcia Reynolds, of Natick, Massachusetts, to track down her sister, Regina Campisi, a 77-year-old recovering from surery in Lahaina as the fire arrived this week.

"It was so frightening, we couldn't get through to her, so we had no idea," Reynolds told NBC10 Boston on Friday.

Campisi had to go to the airport to get cellphone service, Reynolds said, and even then, it only lasted about a minute before dropping out.

"She was just almost crying on the phone," Reynolds said, "just frantic and traumatized from the whole thing. We haven't heard anything else."

As many as 1,000 people are missing and dozens are confirmed dead after wildfires broke out on Maui.

The dangerous conditions that prompted the fire were caused by several factors, according to professor Abby Frazier, a Clark University climatologist who's studied rainfall patterns in Hawaii for a decade. Rainfall has decreased, bringing longer and more severe droughts, which combined with the effects of El Nino, a passing hurricane and an ambundance of tinder on the island.

"The biggest factor is that we have these large areas of non-native grasses that were extremely flammable and all of these conditions just came together to spark this fire," Frazier said.

As help pours into Hawaii from around the country, she said other states could take their own precautions to protect their communities from the impact of the changing climate: "There's a term called 'climate grief.' That is very real. And, you know, a lot of people are coping in different ways with this. But there's still a lot of action and hope to be found in this."

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