Lahaina barber leads others to safety during deadly firestorm

Lahaina native credited with saving multiple lives.
We have a new story of heroism from that catastrophic day about a man credited with saving multiple lives.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 7:02 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 18, 2023 at 10:41 PM HST
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LAHAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Keoni Vasquez lived and owned his own business on Lahainaluna Road.

Even though it’s all gone now, he is grateful that he made it out alive, and he managed to save several people along the way.

Vasquez has been a barber for seven years.

He opened his dream shop, Urban Barbers of Maui, on the bottom of Lahainaluna Road in July.

He was cutting hair on Tuesday, Aug. 8, when the fire broke out, and everyone lost electricity.

“My shop was built to where I could run it off a generator,” said Vasquez. “So, I still had appointments that day, and then when the roads got gridlocked, I started rescheduling all my appointments.”

“I ended up going home around three o’clock and took a nap. But I had all my windows closed because of the wind and the dust, and my neighbor woke me up.”

By then, Lahaina town had already turned black from the thick smoke that blanketed the sky.

The roads were gridlocked.

“It was already jammed with cars, but there was nobody in them. Everybody was running on foot,” Vasquez said. “I started having to bang cars out of the way.”

“I could feel the heat. The ashes were flying … 10 minutes later, my whole neighborhood was in flames … the fire was moving like 10 feet every five seconds … houses were just catching on fire. Shingles were flying, landing on other houses, and catching fire.”

Keoni made it down to Puamana before it burned. But then he got trapped with several others who were trying to break a fence with a bat.

“A line of cars all trying to get out,” he said. “So, I just told them to reverse their cars, and when they reversed out of the way, I just hit the fence down.”

Everyone made it out.

Keoni doesn’t consider himself a hero, but others do.

“I didn’t even think about it like that. At that time … it was just like it had to be done … I don’t even know how I’m supposed to feel about that.”

Even though Keoni lost his home, his business, and totaled his car trying to escape, he is grateful he was able to save himself and others that unforgettable day.

To help Keoni rebuild, click here.