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Hawaiian Officials Discourage Trips to Maui As Deadly Wildfires Burn

Top officials in Hawaii are urging travelers to put off upcoming trips to Maui as wildfires burned across stretches of the popular resort island as well as The Big Island to the south.

Unprecedented wildfires triggered by Hurricane Dora broke out earlier this week, closing roads and prompting evacuations as fires burned through “hundreds of acres,” according to a proclamation from the state's lieutenant governor issued Wednesday. The toll was greatest in Maui and the historic town of Lahaina, a tourist haven on the island's northwest coast: Its downtown district was largely destroyed, according to Hawaii News Now. Maui County officials said at least 36 people were killed in the fires.

As firefighters battled the blazes, the state activated the Hawaii National Guard to help and officially declared that “nonessential travel to the Island of Maui is strongly discouraged.” The state's emergency declaration continues through at least Aug. 15.

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Travelers and residents alike were left scrambling to leave the island, including ongoing evacuations from several pockets of Maui where the fires were burning worst. The island's airport in Kahului (OGG) is still open, but Maui County warned that the the airport was sheltering 2,000 travelers from canceled departures and arrivals as of Wednesday morning.

While the fires were largely under control by Thursday, many organizations throughout Hawaii warned travelers to steer clear of Maui – especially western Maui – for the foreseeable future.

“Visitors who have travel plans to West Maui in the coming weeks are encouraged to consider rescheduling their travel plans for a later time,” the Hawaii Tourism Authority said in a statement.

From American Airlines to Hawaiian to United, all the major U.S. carriers have issued waivers allowing customers with Maui travel plans to rebook without penalties or fare differences.

Delta's policy, for example, allows anyone scheduled to fly in or out of Maui until Aug. 13 to rebook their trip as far out as Aug. 16 without paying substantial fare differences. Other airlines like Alaska Airlines and Hawaiian have gone much further, giving travelers until the end of August to rebook without paying more. And most airlines are allowing travelers a free change to their final destination to neighboring islands.

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Hotels and resorts are bound to be affected, too. The Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, located just north of Lahaina, posted on its website that it is not accepting arriving guests through at least Aug. 11. All stays – including those with prepaid, nonrefundable rates – are being refunded.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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