“It was about 9 p.m. when I could see the glow of the fire in the night sky,” said Jaime Serrano. “The locals were running around the hotel frantically. I saw a man sprinting from the parking lot to inside the hotel. I asked someone near me what was happening and they said they were preparing to be evacuated.”
Jaime Serrano and Celina Castellanos were on their second to last day of their Maui vacation, their first family vacation, before seeing the smoke.
Brush fires ignited in Maui on Tuesday. The causes of the initial fires are undetermined at the time of this publication, but they quickly escalated on Wednesday due to low humidity and strong mountain winds brought by Hurricane Dora, according to the New York Times. Hurricane Dora is a category 4 storm that has moved across the Pacific Ocean.
According to CBS News, 2,207 structures were damaged or destroyed, estimating that 86% of them were homes, and 2,170 acres of land were burned, as estimated by the Pacific Disaster Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in a fire damage estimate. The estimates stated that about 4,500 people will need shelter and it will cost approximately $5.52 billion to rebuild.
The death toll, at the time of this publication, is 80.
Serrano’s and Castellanos’ family were fast asleep before knowing just how much the fires grew.
Serrano went to get gas for the drive the next day when he saw the growth before his eyes. He drove back to the hotel with one thought, “I prayed to God asking him to ensure my family’s safety.”
“When I went into the hotel room around 10 p.m. on Tuesday night my family was fast asleep,” said Serrano. “I said, ‘We need to pack and get out of here.’ They had no idea there was a huge uncontrollable fire 0.8 miles away from them that was raging out of control because of the 60 mph winds generated from Hurricane Dora, 660 miles south off the coast of Maui.
Serrano helped his family pack up and they all left the hotel.
When they stepped outside, fire, smoke and an orange glow filled the night sky.
“I’ve never seen that in my life,” said Castellanos. “It was really scary to be honest with you.”
As soon as they hit the road, first responders were urging everyone to clear the roads.
All roads to the airport were closed except one – Hana.
Hana is popularly known as a dangerous road.
“There was no cell service and no GPS. I relied on verbal directions to the airport from a local who said he would never travel that road at night,” said Serrano. “We drove it at 1 in the morning. It took four hours to get to the airport.”
The family was one of the 12,000 tourists, according to the New York Times, to have left Maui.
“It feels good that we were one of the first ones to get out,” said Castellanos.
“We are safe, but some families didn’t make it,” said Serrano. “We are very blessed.”