It has been five weeks since the devastating wildfires tore through the beloved tourist town of Lahaina on Maui.
The current death toll stands at 115 people, with more than 60 individuals still missing. Many survivors we spoke to shared a common sentiment: if they had delayed their evacuation by just a few minutes, their lives might have been lost.
Davin Phelps, a 36-year-old videographer, witnessed the approaching smoke as he was on his way to pick up his children from school. In a frantic call to his wife, who was home alone at the time, he urged her to leave immediately. Davin expressed his feelings of helplessness, not knowing the true extent of the danger. He had his two children with him, leaving him torn between returning home and facing the fire or ensuring his family’s safety.
Meanwhile, Davin’s wife, Marissa, found herself trapped in heavy traffic, with nowhere to escape. As smoke filled her car, she called Davin in distress. She managed to follow a car ahead of her onto a sidewalk, which ultimately led her to safety. Davin described this as a miraculous turn of events, as their friends’ parents, who were just minutes behind Marissa, tragically succumbed to smoke inhalation.
A similar harrowing experience unfolded for 36-year-old Dustin Dudoit and his family. The roaring winds made it seem as though the fire was right next to them, despite being a block away. As they fled their home, they narrowly escaped the fire, with only a single bag of belongings and some papers salvaged.
In the aftermath of the fire, Davin posted a video on his Instagram account, @davin.phelpsfilms, documenting a touching paddle-out ceremony by hundreds of surfers, held to honor the Lahaina wildfire victims. One of his collaborators described making the video as therapeutic and emphasized the importance of hope and community during these challenging times. Davin, a Christian and regular attendee at Harvest Kumulani Chapel in Kapalua, expressed his profound inspiration from his fellow believers.
He highlighted the presence of God in the midst of adversity, noting that it is evident in the faces of those who are providing assistance and support. Despite losing his home, which is currently uninhabitable, Davin and his family are grateful for the provision of a vacation rental through friends from their church. They are taking each day as it comes, relying on faith and the generosity of their community.
For Dustin, an avid fisherman, the fire claimed all his fishing gear. However, Operation Blessing stepped in to provide him with brand-new fishing spears and fins, offering a glimmer of hope. Dustin expressed that diving and fishing provide him solace and a connection with God, making it an essential part of his life. He is deeply thankful for Operation Blessing’s assistance, which allows him to regain a sense of normalcy.
In the face of tragedy, these stories reveal the resilience of the Lahaina community and the strength they draw from their faith, mutual support, and the helping hand of organizations like Operation Blessing.