NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Wildfires have destroyed parts of the Hawaiian island of Maui, with dozens of deaths reported and hundreds of structures impacted in the town of Lahania.
“It’s a place where we’ve gone and have a lot of wonderful memories,” said Lisa Hartmann, of Westport.
Lahaina holds a special place in the Hartmann family’s life.
“On a whim, they just bought this place as did another friend of theirs and they just loved this community from Puamana,” Hartmann said.
Hartmann told News 8 her mother-in-law, who’s from Westport, is a Hawaii resident. She splits her time there and back in Connecticut, where she’s currently home safe.
“She started taking videos and breaking down the videos frame-by-frame until we found something from her community, and we could see the structure of her home is still standing,” Hartmann said. “Everything around her is completely gone.”
The Maui wildfires raced through the historic town of Lahaina, which is a tourist destination known for its rich history and culture.
“When she goes back, how is she going to go back?” said Hartmann.
Now, efforts are underway to deploy resources. Stamford-based Americares said they’re planning to send a response team. They’re expected to arrive in Honolulu on Friday and go to the hardest-hit areas. The American Red Cross is already there, and two volunteers from Connecticut are flying out.
“We have our volunteers that are trained – and go through training all year – so that they’re prepared to drop everything and go help these people when it matters most,” said Samantha Miller, Regional Communications Manager for the American Red Cross for Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Mass evacuations are underway for both residents and visitors.
“On Tuesday night, [we were] two blocks away from an evacuation,” said Klara Crocco, who lives in Maui, but is a West Haven native. “We didn’t have to evacuate. We have prepared evacuation bags, that we have left packed because everything is so unsettled. But luckily, we didn’t have to evacuate at this time.”
Tourism is also expected to be impacted for months.
“You also have to consider as far as the residents go and people who have lost so many things,” said Donna Hubbs, of D & D Travel Services LLC in Bloomfield.
Many Connecticut residents who are watching this tragedy unfold nearly 5,000 miles away are wondering what they can do to help.
Donations can be made to Americares and the American Red Cross to assist with their efforts.