Thomas Jefferson

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Aloha Lahaina

Posted 10/08/2023 by Jesse Smith

Burning home in Maui fell victim to the Lahaina fire. photo by Matthew Thayer

Raging fires have burned down thousands of homes as well as killed and displaced many in the historic town of Lahaina.

In August of 2023, Maui was hit with Hawaii’s worst natural disaster ever, destroying the historic island. Thousands of people have been displaced, hundreds are presently missing, and billions of dollars of damage have been done. Nothing can replace the hole that the fires left in beautiful Maui. 

The city of Kula was the first to report flames. At around 3 a.m. on August 8, residents were evacuated from their homes and brought to shelters by the Red Cross. Three hours later, two residents in Lahaina were the first to capture what became the biggest fire in Hawaii’s history. The picture taken by the residents showed flames along the Lahainaluna road along with fallen utility poles that had been knocked down by 90 mile an hour winds the day before. Ongoing investigations are being conducted, but authorities believe that those poles are likely what started the fires. Maui County has started a lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric that will be over $5.5 billion for the damage.

The Maui fires have been distinguished as four separate fires: the Kula, Olinda, Lahaina, and the Kihei fires. After the fire started in Kula, it spread throughout Maui, causing immense damage to every place it spread. While all fires were devastating, the most damaging fire in   regards to money and lives was the Lahaina fire. This fire started when the high winds carried the embers across an four-lane highway and into the town. Within minutes, the historic town was set aflame. Many were forced to jump into the water to escape the flames, resulting in the death toll rising as many drowned trying to escape the fire. Homes, businesses, even boats were turned into ashes and melted to the ground; the famous Banyan tree, too, was burned down after 150 years of growing in Lahaina soil. 

Eva Dhillon, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, was in Lahaina during the beginning of this fire. “We lost power for two days,” said Dhillon, explaining how she and her family had one normal day of vacation before restaurants closed, their refrigerator shut down, and they were at a loss of both comfort and safety. The power outage was due to the strong winds caused by Hurricane Hilary; the very same winds that knocked down the electric poles. Not until Monday were the Dhillons aware that the fires had even started. “We got there on Saturday, and on Monday I saw a cloud of smoke coming from Lahaina… the whole sky turned red,” explained Dhillon. “A loud alarm came on in the hotel and everyone was told that they had to evacuate.” From there, her family went to a Red Cross shelter to stay until their flight two days later. Dhillon described the experience as incredibly sad – there were hundreds of other people staying in the shelter and some even suffered from burns. The shelter became so packed that victims had to lay on the ground. Dhillon felt as though she couldn’t even think about her own feelings when surrounded by the injured. “There were a ton of burned victims there that were wrapped in bandages… and a huge board filled with missing people,” said Dhillon. She was surrounded by both tourists and numerous natives who would, sadly, not be able to return to their home like those from the mainland.

All aspects of the fire are devastating, but the lives and culture lost across the state have left a dent on beautiful Maui. Their grief is unimaginable, and it is unacceptable that the news coverage has lessened on the fires. To help Maui, you can donate to Hawaii Community Foundation to help relieve those who have lost so much in the fires.