A devastating fire swept through Lahaina, Hawaii
On Tuesday, August 8, 2023, a massive wildfire broke out in Lahaina, a small town in Maui County, Hawaii. The fire was fueled by strong winds of up to 60 mph, dry vegetation, and low humidity. The fire quickly spread from the mountains to the historic commercial district near the ocean, destroying hundreds of homes and businesses. The fire also forced thousands of residents and tourists to evacuate the area, leaving behind their belongings and memories.
One of the residents who lost his home was Jeff Melichar, a retired commercial real estate agent who had lived in Lahaina since 1995. He shared his heartbreaking story with CNN, describing how he witnessed the fire engulf his house and neighborhood.
Melichar’s last glimpse of his house
Melichar said he woke up to heavy winds on Tuesday morning and saw the damage caused by the fire in town. He noticed a large dark smoke cloud over the Lahaina commercial district that kept growing as the day progressed. He and his neighbors never imagined the nightmare this smoke cloud would become in just a matter of hours.
As darkness fell, and the flames grew more intense, he saw a steady stream of cars leaving town. The air was heavy and reeked of smoke. He and a friend walked through the neighborhood around 7:30 pm and noticed that the fire had jumped Shaw Street, a short road that leads to Front Street, where the commercial district starts. The fire was heading in their direction.
They rushed back home because they knew they had to get out. As smoke and embers started to surround them, they loaded a few personal items in the car and headed down south to Kihei, another town some 20 miles from Lahaina. As he pulled out of the driveway, he couldn’t help but think that this was probably the last time he would ever see his house. It was heartbreaking.
The aftermath of the fire
The fire was finally contained on Thursday, August 10, 2023, after burning more than 20,000 acres and destroying over 500 structures. At least 80 people have been killed in the raging wildfires, according to officials — a number that will keep rising as rescue teams venture into the charred homes and buildings. President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration to provide more federal assistance, which is and will be crucial.
Most of the fires have now been contained, but thousands continue to grapple with power outages and the lack of phone service. With every single home gone, the once eclectic, vibrant and warm town is now a grimy, devastated land. It’s very clear to us that our town will never be the same.
Melichar said he had lived in Lahaina since 1995 and loved it for its mix of tourists and locals. His immediate neighborhood, overlooking the ocean, was a very special place that he had loved since he first came in the early 1980s. Through the years, he made everlasting friendships and this place became home. But that is all gone now, and it will never come back.
He said nobody saw this coming, and it happened so quickly. He said he knows Lahaina will be rebuilt, and the government response — city, state and federal — will be a huge part of that. But at this very moment it’s hard to find hope.
Category: World News
Meta Description: A Maui resident shares his tragic story of losing his home and memories in the Lahaina fire that killed at least 80 people and destroyed hundreds of structures.