MAUI, Hawaii. — Nearly three weeks after a massive wildfire devastated parts of Maui, hundreds of people and animals are still missing.
One Kansas City man and his organization deployed to the island for about two weeks to help find people’s pets and assist the shelters as they navigate unprecedented destruction.
“We have an exceptional system here, and we look forward to taking that out during our national response and sharing the organizational standards of Kansas City,” Eric Thompson, Senior Director of ASAR Training & Response, said.
The town that sits on the island of Maui, Lahaina, is home to Hawaii’s largest natural disasters ever, according to the governor of the state.
At one point, more than 1000 people were unaccounted for. That number is now under 400.
As the search continues, so too does the search for missing pets.
“We had over 1300 lost reports of pets. They may still have been remaining in the area,” Thompson said.
That’s where Thompson and his organization ASAR Training and Response stepped in to help.
He and his team coordinated efforts for the Maui Humane Society to take in the help of outside organizations that were helping animals in that area with both governmental and non-governmental assistance.
“We always find that animals find a way to survive, so we never say that all animals have perished in a fire or an event because we always know that there are those miracle stories,” Thompson said.
Along with helping to reunite animals with families, they also delivered thousands of gallons of water and over 17,000 pounds of pet food.
So far, they’ve helped reunite more than 30 percent of living animals with their families.
Many of those stories of reunification are remarkable, like the one where a dog sitter watching a pair of dogs as this massive fire took control of Lahaina. One of those dogs managed to get to safety and back to shore.
“The owner’s dog jumped into the ocean to escape the flames and swam away from the pet sitter. That dog actually swam down the shore line, past the fire line and remerged about a day later,” Thompson said.