On August 8, multiple fires started on Maui and ravaged the island over the next week, burning more than 2,000 acres, according to ABC and CBS. As of August 21, Maui police have confirmed 115 deaths, and there are still another 1,000 or more on an unconfirmed list of people unaccounted for after the fires, AP News reported.
Sherri McKinney, regional communications director for the Tennessee Region of the American Red Cross, is deployed to Maui as the national spokesperson for the organization as they respond to the wildfires in Lahaina.
More than 380 volunteers with the Red Cross are on the island, trying to help those who have been devastated by the wildfire, McKinney said. She explained that the Red Cross is helping find anything needed to get people on the road to recovery such as finding temporary housing and housing, replacing prescriptions and eyeglasses, providing food, and working with community and government partners, like FEMA.
Because the Red Cross has chapters across the nation, the local chapter was able to respond as soon as they saw the wildfire start. Additional volunteers arrived within 24 to 48 hours, McKinney said.
“What we are seeing here is extensive damage. This is a long-term recovery. This is not something that’s going to be fixed in a couple months. Typically when we’re deployed, we see deployments end in six to eight weeks. This is going to be about eight months, maybe 10 months,” McKinney said. “We do expect to still have involvement as long as two years from here, but with folks coming in from all over the country at least eight months.”
She explained that the recovery will be much more extensive as thousands of people and businesses of Maui are impacted, and that damage has caused a ripple effect throughout the community. In addition to the searches that are continuing for those killed in the fires, McKinney said this is the time to focus in on mental health as well as supporting those who have lost their homes and businesses.
“Hawaiians are very proud and very strong culture and we are here working with that culture and making sure that they know that this is under their terms. And we are providing assistance as quickly as possible as we can to these people,” McKinney added. “This is going to be a really hard recovery for the people of Hawaii, but if anyone can see light at the end of the tunnel, it is the people of Hawaii.”
There are multiple ways to donate to the red cross to help those through the disaster, including:
- Visit redcross.org
- Calling 1-800-Red-Cross
- Texting Hawaii to 90999 to make a $10 donation
McKinney added that while many may want to send products or items to help the people affected by the wildfires, monetary donations are the best way to help them with long-term recovery and getting exactly what they need.
Alongside the homes and businesses that were lost, many of Maui’s cultural and historic landmarks were damaged or destroyed in the wildfires. Some of those include the 150 year old Banyan Tree and the Old Lahaina Courthouse and Heritage Museum, ABC reported.
The damage to the island is devastating, but Lahaina especially as it holds important cultural value for the Hawaiian people. In 1802, King Kamehameha made Lahaina the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom. To learn more about the history of Lahaina, click here.