Fire victim relief efforts continue at Lahaina disaster recovery event

Supply donations are still needed

Red Cross volunteers Colleen Carter (clockwise from lower left) of Berrien County, Mich., and Heather Stanhope of Union County, Ore., assist Lahaina fire victims Mel Lindsey, Gary Woodward, Crystal Mitchell and Josh Zorich on Saturday morning at Waiola Congregational Church. The church hosted county and state agencies as well as nonprofits to assist victims of last month’s West Maui brush fires. -- The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

LAHAINA — More than two dozen West Maui fire victims sought help Saturday during a disaster recovery event at Waiola Church in Lahaina.

Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya said Maui County agencies, nonprofits and other groups staffed tables and fielded questions. He estimated that about 30 people came to his agency’s table to sign up for damage assessments because their homes had been damaged or destroyed in the fast-moving Aug. 24 brush fire that burned more than 2,000 acres.

Some people needed help getting new driver’s licenses because personal documentation needed to get new licenses had been lost in the fire, he said. Others sought help to get expedited building permits so they could repair or rebuild their homes, he said.

Crystal Mitchell said the fire destroyed her home and the residence of her neighbor and tenant, Josh Zorich.

“Our whole house burned. We lost everything,” Mitchell said.

Mel Lindsey and Gary Woodward’s homes were spared destruction, but because of damage to their roofs with asbestos their residences are now uninhabitable.

Mitchell credited Lindsey and Woodward with alerting her family to the fire.

“Our house was boarded up for the hurricane, and we couldn’t see or smell smoke,” she said.

Lindsey said she pounded on Mitchell’s bedroom wall to wake the family.

Mitchell said she and her husband gathered up their two small boys and the family dog and left the house with just a few items.

Zorich said he felt lucky to only lose belongings.

“The house that I rented is gone,” he said. “I know people have it worse off than I do. I’m just glad everybody got out and nobody got hurt.”

Waiola Church Administrator Jen Mather credited the many people who stepped up to help organize relief efforts and who donated goods and food. She said the church is limiting what it accepts to rubber boots, coolers, tents, cleaning supplies, sleeping cots, 5,000-watt generators, pop-up canopies, carpentry tools and folding tables.

Andaya said fire victims also reported they needed help with debris removal. So, a major cleanup effort was organized for residents along Lahainaluna Road, and truckloads of debris were taken away, he said. Volunteers provided the manpower for cleanup efforts.

Also, the county provided fire victims, including residents of Kauaula Valley, with roll-off dumpsters to gather debris, Andaya said. The dumpsters were being provided at no cost to the residents, he added.

Andaya said a main objective for the county is to identify all fire and flood victims from the remnants of Hurricane Lane. People need to fill out forms to document their damage, he said.

That information will be compiled into a report to be submitted in the next day or two to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will forward information to President Donald Trump for an emergency disaster declaration, he said.

Anyone who has yet to report damage should call the county Emergency Management Agency at 270-7285.

Andaya said his agency also was responding Saturday to Haiku residents whose homes were isolated by a 13-foot sinkhole at Puu Way. About three homes were cut off by flooding, he said, and “we’re trying to create an alternate route for them.”

The church-hosted event in Lahaina also helped fire victims replace everything from birth certificates and marriage licenses to eyeglasses and medications.

Andrew Stevens, a certified emergency manager from Sammamish, Wash., said he was helping at the church after being temporarily deployed to the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Several hundred people showed up at the church to donate relief supplies, including food, prepared meals, household goods, clothing, toys and diapers, Stevens said.

About 25 individuals sought direct state assistance, he said.

“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t missing anyone,” he said.

* City Editor Brian Perry contributed to this report.