HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Hawaii woman who moved to California just three years ago has now lost her home in one of the most destructive wildfires in the state’s history.
She said she’s unsure if anyone in the town of Paradise will ever be able to move back.
Chauntel Busche said the fire surrounded her beloved Northern California town so suddenly.
“When I looked out the window the sky went from red, from a fire being in the distance, to just heavy dark clouds of smoke,” Busche said. “I opened my door and you could just smell smoke coming into the house, I got my kids and told them I had a really eerie feeling about what was going on.”
Busche decided to evacuate immediately. She and her two sons grabbed what they could and filled their SUV.
"Us just being outside and loading up the car, we were coughing uncontrollably. And it looked like snow. It was snowing ashes," she said. "I tried to fit as much as I could, I have an SUV and ended up breaking the trunk of my car just trying to squeeze things in."
They made it out of Paradise safely.
But they couldn’t get in touch with her aunt and godchildren who also lived nearby.
“They almost died,” she told Hawaii News Now. “They actually got stuck in the fire and had to get rescued. Their clothes were singed and the smoke, you know, my aunt’s hair caught on fire. You know there was kind of a lot that went on with that and just by the grace of god they ended up getting rescued and being OK.”
Busche said she later received a phone call that her house was on fire.
And she also happened to see her street in television news footage.
“It looks apocalyptic, it looks like something from a movie. Everything’s just gone, it’s all ashes," she said.
"The way that the town has burnt down, you’re not able to go back there. And so we’re not just suffering the loss of our home, but the community that we had there.”
Despite everything they've lost, Busche said she and her family are strong and they're feeling all of the aloha from across the Pacific.
“There’s just a lot of people in Hawaii right now that I know that are reaching out to us from there too as well, and we’re just kind of overwhelmed with the love being sent out to us," she said. “Every little comment or word matters to us right now.”
The Busche family is now staying with friends, and a GoFundMe has been set up to help them with expenses.