Molokai Community Assists in Maui Fire Aid

By Catherine Cluett Pactol, Reporter

Molokai volunteers load donations for Maui. Photo by Catherine Cluett Pactol.

Last Tuesday, Aug. 8, fires broke out on Maui that officials now say are the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century. As of Sunday, deaths had reached nearly 100 and rising, with more than 1000 people still unaccounted for. The entire town of Lahaina was destroyed in a fast-burning fire that left residents running for their lives and jumping into the ocean in attempts to escape the blaze. 

With government assistance lacking and official aid slow to arrive to those hit hardest, the Maui community galvanized to organize food, water, clothing and essential supplies to those who fled with only the clothes on their backs. 

The Molokai community also jumped to action. 

One of them was boat captain Chris Mangca. 

“I saw what was going on the night before and how people were in the water, and I have friends that live on the boats in Lahaina Harbor and family there too…. First thing in the morning, I told my wife, “I’m springing into action. I’m going to go help whoever is out there.”

When he arrived in Lahaina that morning, the Coast Guard was still searching for people in the water. They asked Mangca and other boats to keep their eyes out. 

“[It was] like a bomb went off,” Mangca said of Lahaina. “The whole place was unrecognizable.”

He spent that first day delivering water and whatever supplies he had on his boat to those along the shores who lost everything in the fire, sharing stories of horror. 

“My friends were covering up their kids’ faces while they drove through the fire. People were on fire and you can’t stop, because if you stop, what do you do? Put a burning, flaming person in your car? So it’s like, every man for himself. Everybody was terrified. There are no siren warnings. Nothing for the people,” he said. 

Mangca and a group of Molokai boat owners continued daily supply drop offs directly to those sheltering on the beaches just outside of Lahaina, and assisting in transporting supplies from Ma’alaea Harbor to those in Lahaina. 

Officials blocked passage and road access to Lahaina, citing safety concerns and ongoing search and rescue efforts. But this also meant those who were hit hardest didn’t have access to much-needed supplies. 

Front Street, Lahaina. Photo courtesy of US Civil Air Patrol, County of Maui.

“Second day, my friend Kamaile Alcon calls me up and he says he’s got nine pallets of food, water and ice to take to Maui because a lot of people that we know on Maui were out on the Kahana side, Ka’anapali side, where everybody from Lahaina town had retreated to,” said Mangca. “And so we know a lot of people out there and they’re calling out to us and we just stepped up and took nine pallets of food and water and ice.”

Mangca and other Molokai boaters continued all week to do daily drop offs of food, water, ice and medicines donated by the Molokai community. 

Mangca said also he brought back some evacuees that have ‘ohana on Molokai, though he said many wanted to stay on Maui to search for missing family members.

In a massive effort, donations were collected on Molokai all week, and organizers said they were blown away by the response. 

“You know, Molokai, when it comes to these kinds of things, there are so many people who will drop everything and give, without caring about themselves, and it’s very heartwarming,” said Kui Adolpho, one of the organizers of a Molokai donation drive that sent many pallets of supplies to Maui. “We don’t have a lot of stores that we can buy stuff, but we definitely have stuff that we’re willing to give.”

Adolpho said they announced donation locations, “never thinking that it would be this much.”

Groups of Molokai volunteers worked all week to sort and label clothing and other donations to make them more quickly useable when they arrive on Maui. 

“We’re pretty overwhelmed by how much stuff was brought and it’s just been crazy, and overwhelming just to know how giving people can be,” said Adolpho. “A lot of Molokai people have Maui family ties so I think that’s really where it’s hitting home and we want to help as much as we can.”

Molokai’s County Councilwoman Keani Rawlins-Fernandez recognized Molokai’s efforts. 

“Our Molokai community knows how to be resourceful and resilient and so of course, they immediately dispatched individual fishermen with boats to help out the Westside community by delivering supplies, and by picking up ‘ohana to bring them home to Molokai to shelter,” she said. “With the supplies drive, our community just has so much aloha to get supplies over to our ‘ohana in West Maui.”


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