Amid deadly fires, Gonzales family fears for family living on Maui
GONZALES - Devastating fires erupted on the Island of Maui Tuesday night due to a combination of dry air and strong winds from Hurricane Dora, which created an unmatched storm that lit the fuse on a deadly fire.
For a family in Gonzales, the far away fire hit close to home.
Maggie Finley's sister Mary Mishima and brother-in-law Jyun Mishima escaped their home in the now-devastated town of Lahaina, as flames continued spreading to the family home.
"She said that it doesn't look good because flames were coming up the empty lot behind them, and the house behind them was already on fire," Finley said.
Mary and Jyun's son John Mishima lives in Gonzales and works with Gonzales Fire and Rescue. Mishima says poor phone service on Maui meant the family would go as long as seven hours without speaking.
"I was scared and instantly became numb, and I wanted to talk to my parents," Mishima said.
John says at one point, he was having his last-ever phone call with his mother.
"As she was stuck, she's like 'We're probably just going to die in our car,'" Mishima said. "So I was like 'alright, well I don't know'. I'm so far away I can't do anything, but you know, they're safe now."
For a family of first responders, Maggie and John says it's hard to watch the burning and destruction of their home and historic community, without being able to help.
"It's frustrating. What can you do?", Mishima said.
Kylie Wahinehookae is a paramedic for Acadian Ambulances and John Mishima's fiance. Wahinehookae's family is in the number of people who lost everything to the flames.
"Our family, not just our family, but a lot of families have lived there for almost hundreds of years in those houses," Wahinehookae said. The memories, not really the material things, but the memories that we've had with multiple generations living there; it's really hard to fathom losing."
More than 11,000 residents and tourists have already evacuated the island. Finley says when Mary Jyun left the family home, they turned away with only the shirts on their backs, and the family is now urging others to help.
"We have bordering states that can just get supplies in and help, but they're on an island and you can't help but think that they're trapped," Finley said.
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