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The Lancer Link

News for the Carlsbad High School Community

The Lancer Link

News for the Carlsbad High School Community

The Lancer Link

Maui resident survives fatal fires

Anne Hedgecock
Fires erupts near a Maui beach.

On Aug. 8, wildfires spread across the Hawaiian island of Maui. The natural disaster severely damaged the historic town of Lahaina, forcing many locals and tourists to jump into the water for safety while stuck on the burning island.

Maui local and business owner Lani Williams was trapped on the island during these fires. Williams reflects on her time on the island and how this changed her life.

“I didn’t realize the situation was serious until my neighbor yelled, ‘Oh my God! The building is on fire!’” Williams said. “He was referring to the building across the street from us. It was about 30 feet away.”

Once locals and tourists realized the seriousness of the situation, they were faced with life-threatening obstacles. As the fire took down power lines and buildings, resources and options became scarce.

“[There was] no cell phone service, internet or electricity the entire day due to high, hurricane-force winds,” Williams said. “So I had no clue if my son and granddaughter were safe.”

As families desperately tried to reach out to those on the island, there was no luck. While trying to reach out to loved ones, many families faced limitations that held them back from escaping.

“Another challenge was staying calm,” Williams said. “Staying calm to make rational decisions for not only myself but also my disabled mother.”
Mass chaos was caused as people tried to flee the burning island, resulting in unmoving traffic that forced many escaping individuals to abandon their cars if they were able to. Hundreds more were left trapped on the island in their burning cars.

“Another challenge was getting trapped in traffic on Front Street,” Williams said. “With fires and explosions on three sides of us, I had to decide what to do… Get into the ocean!”

The road Front Street was right on the ocean, with only a small wall separating the road and the shore. Many people jumped into the ocean as a last resort. As rescue boats searched the waters, some survivors waited in the ocean for many hours on end.

Benny Reinicke was a young man on the island during the fire. He saved both Williams and her mother, Sincerity Mirkovich. Since the wall separating the water and road was around eight feet tall, getting past it seemed impossible.

“Once I realized we needed to get over the sea wall, there was a young man there who helped carry my mother over and get her safely down the rocks,” Williams said. “Without him, she would have died, and I would have died too because I wouldn’t leave her.”

After making it over the wall and waiting in the ocean, conditions only got worse. As the boats searched for survivors, Williams, Mirkovich and Reinicke faced many challenges while trying to remain safe. The rough waters and smokey air caused severe health risks.

“The challenge was waiting it out while fires were raging all around us, trying to breathe through hot, heavy black smoke, trying not to get burned by embers and also trying to not get swept away when the waves were crashing on us,” Williams said.

After this tragedy, residents are stunned. Many locals and tourists lost their lives, homes, belongings and families. While working on moving forward and recovering, many fears have surfaced.

“I definitely believe we need to make changes as a community,” Williams said.

The Hawaiian community has made many changes, both emotionally and physically. Though the fire destroyed the towns on the island, it served as a reality check to those who had been mistreating the island and its resources. Over the years, the island has been slowly stripped of its history and pride.

“Hawaii is made up of islands and cannot be treated the same as the continental U.S.,” Williams said. “We need to restore natural water resources and stop water diversion. Take care of what we have now instead of trying to build more and take more.”

Those living in other states have pitched in to help Maui and its residents. Many citizens have started fundraisers to aid both specific people and the island fund in general. There is an online survey anyone can take to get involved and help with Maui’s rescue and relief efforts. In addition to the survey, there is also a website that was created to provide options on how to help. This site includes a variety of choices including volunteering, donating and updates on the victims.

This tragedy brought the residents of the island together to mourn as one. While individuals work together to rebuild what was lost, the community realizes that changes need to be made.

“I strongly believe that we are not meant to own land, we are meant to take care of her,” Williams said. “It’s a symbiotic relationship, and this fire is her calling out for help. If we don’t make serious changes, it will happen again.”

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Maddy Daly, Social Media Editor
Maddy is a sophomore and in her second year in journalism. In her free time, she figure skates and plays volleyball.
Evie Fossum, Social Media Editor
Evie Fossum is a high school sophomore and it is her second year on the the journalism staff. She likes writing stories and interviewing people. She enjoys taking pictures and designing infographics, and helping new staff learn. She enjoys listening to music and watching tv.

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  • J

    JacqueOct 6, 2023 at 4:15 pm

    Well said!♥️🥲