‘It was catastrophic’: Residents left devastated as wildfires wreak havoc on Maui

We continue to bring you the latest from Maui, which has changed forever as a result of these devastating fires that have destroyed Lahaina.
Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 11:32 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 9, 2023 at 8:45 AM HST
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LAHAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - As flames from a raging brush fire tore through a historic business district on Maui Tuesday, residents and others on social media described the “devastating” crisis unfolding.

A pilot from Air Maui Helicopters flew over Lahaina Wednesday morning and recalled seeing hundreds of homes burnt down.

Lahaina resident Tiare Lawrence compared the scene to an apocalypse, with people running for their lives.

“It’s just so hard. I’m currently Upcountry and just knowing I can’t get a hold of any of my family members. I still don’t know where my little brother is. I don’t know where my stepdad is,” she said.

“Everyone I know in Lahaina, their homes have been burned down.”

Lawrence’s cousin Dustin Kaleiopu added they had seen smoke near their house around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, and just a few hours later, the fires took everything.

“Our house was gone. Everything that we’d ever known was gone. Our church, our schools, every single memory we had on this household ... everything was gone in the blink of an eye,” Kaleiopu said.

Front Street business owner Alan Dickar captured video Tuesday afternoon, watching business after business going up in flames.

“That was this afternoon, around probably 4:30 in bright sunshine, blue skies, but you couldn’t tell from that video.”

He said there were no fire trucks at the point.

“I think the fire department was overwhelmed with other fires nearby,” he said. “And it’s amazing because this is the most important business street on Maui.”

Meanwhile, crews have been scrambling to rescue a number of people who fled into the ocean to escape the fast-moving flames.

Boat Captain Chrissy Lovitt was one of the people who fled into the ocean in an attempt to save her boat. “Every single boat in Lahaina Harbor burned up, it looks like something out of a movie, a war movie.”

“As the fire worked its way down to the engine room it exploded, the water was on fire from the fuel in the water,” said Lovitt.

About 10:50 p.m., the Coast Guard said it had rescued a dozen people from waters off Lahaina.

The full scope of the damage in Lahaina isn’t known, but videos on social media shows a wall of flames descending on Front Street in Lahaina and destroying a number of businesses. One terrifying video posted by fleeing residents shows uncontrolled flames on both sides of their vehicle.

People have described the scene as “chaotic” and “stressful.”

Resident Holly Zackious said her parents returned to their homes in Kula Wednesday after evacuating overnight, and while their home was still intact, neighboring homes were “burnt to the ground.”

“It’s awful the amount of damage that this fire wreaked havoc,” said Zackious. “We’re praying for Lahaina.”

Meanwhile, some groups are working to gather donations to help those impacted by the wildfires. They say donations can be dropped off to Hoomana Barbell in Wailuku starting at 9 a.m.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) regional administrator authorized the use of federal funds on Wednesday to assist the state in combatting the Lahaina fire.

This story will be updated.