‘We’re gonna rebuild’: Residents brace for emotional return to Lahaina

The county has issued details on the reentry plan.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 7:50 PM HST|Updated: Sep. 22, 2023 at 10:33 AM HST

LAHAINA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Thousands of Lahaina evacuees have been waiting for the chance to see firsthand what they lost in the wildfire that destroyed their town. Starting next week, groups will finally be able to return as part of the county’s re-entry plan.

Michael “Mika” Vierra said he and his family will be among the first allowed back to their properties next week. Aerial images show that there’s not much left of his childhood home off Kaniau Road and Aa Street in Lahaina. Despite that, they are ready to return.

“They’ve lived in their Wahikuli house since 1974,” Vierra said.

“They’re one of the first houses to be built over there. We had pictures of all the dirt and they’re like one of the only houses. But I mean, we lost that in the fire.”

Special Section: Maui Wildfires Disaster

Vierra is a 2001 Lahainaluna High School graduate and he moved to Utah in 2003 for college. That’s where he met his wife and built a family.

Although Utah is where he lives, Lahaina is home.

He was in Utah when the fire broke out.

“I’m trying to call my parents. There’s no phone coverage. There’s no electricity, none of that stuff. I called every 20 minutes,” Vierra said.

“They posted some aerial footage, and I was telling my wife, I said, ‘Jess! The house is gone!’”

Vierra got on the very next flight home to look for them.

“My grandma on my mom’s side lived in Honokowai, and in my mind, I was thinking if they got out, that’s where they would go, and I found them there. I found them in Honokowai Marketplace, and I mean, the feeling that they’re OK… was amazing,” he said.

Vierra’s family not only lost their home, their vehicles, and all their belongings, but his mom lost her three businesses on Front Street. “Mom’s store is Leola’s of Hawaii. She opened the first one in 1969 — 872 Front Street. Then she opened another store kind of down the ways by where the Maui Built store used to be, and then she had a store at the Pioneer Inn.”

Even though photos show there’s not much left of their home, the Vierras are hoping to find some life — and some healing — on their property.

“For over 40 years we had these plumeria trees that went around our house, and every day my dad would pick plumeria flowers and make lei to sell in mom’s store,” Vierra said.

“So, one thing we really want to do is we’re hoping is if any of those trees survived, if we can cut off a branch, and replant it for when we build a house.”

For Mika and his family, they’re not going back to say goodbye.

It’s a hui hou.

“We’re for sure gonna rebuild. We’re not leaving,” he said.

Vierra said there is a fundraising marathon in Utah this Saturday.

It was meant to benefit him and his family because of all that they lost. However, Vierra and his family have decided to donate 100% of the proceeds to other Lahaina families.

“There’s so much more people who are in worse situations than we are,” he said.

If you want to donate, click here.

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