LAHAINA, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui Fire Department’s Battalion Chief Amos Lonokailua-Hewett was the incident commander when massive wildfires swept through West Maui this past summer.
His two biggest fears that unforgettable night: Losing the town of Lahaina and the people in it.
"There were embers and debris and winds blowing right into homes. Thirty, forty-foot flame fronts. Houses already being impacted. Some of them already catching on fire. No resources available. My biggest fear was to lose Lahaina town – and what was going to happen to all of those families," said Lonokailua-Hewett.
Three ferocious wildfires ripped through West Maui on August 24th while Hurricane Lane bore down on the state. Fifty-four firefighters jumped into action and risked their own lives to protect the community.
Lonokailua-Hewett was tasked with making all the major decisions.
“There were some really critical moments and the firefighters worked very, very bravely and courageously and did some amazing things,” he said. “And in normal circumstances, they probably wouldn’t have been put in those positions. But without them going into those positions, we would have lost Lahaina town. Plain and simple.”
The wind-whipped flames scorched more than 2,000 acres, 30 vehicles and 22 homes.
But no lives were lost.
And the firefighters were able to save Lahainaluna High School – the oldest school west of the Mississippi.
Lonokailua-Hewett says the real hometown heroes are the brave men and women of the Maui Fire Department who were on the front lines.
“I’m just super proud of all of them. I’m super proud to be a part of this department. Super proud to have fought shoulder to shoulder with those guys, and thank goodness all of them where there.”