MAUI, Hawaii – In an aerial photo that looks almost unreal, a 100-year-old wooden home appears to have survived the Hawaii wildfires largely unscathed, despite every other residence in the area being reduced to ashes.
Trip Millikin’s home on Front Street, with its prominent red roof, has remarkably weathered the wildfires with no real visible damage.
“It looks like it was photoshopped in,” Millikin told the Honolulu Civil Beat of the home, which still stands among the ruins and rubble of the surrounding Lahaina community.
In his interview with the outlet, Millikin said he and his wife Dora Atwater Millikin were visiting Massachusetts when the fires swept through their neighborhood. When he first heard news of the devastation, he assumed that his home, like his neighbors’ homes, would be lost.
“It’s a 100% wood house so it’s not like we fireproofed it or anything,” Atwater Millikin told the L.A. Times.
But the Millikins, who purchased the house in 2021, had recently completed extensive renovations to the property and surrounding land — some of which likely contributed to its resilience.
Speaking with the L.A. Times, Atwater Millikin explained that she and her husband replaced the existing asphalt roof with a commercial-grade metal one. She theorized that the flaming debris “just almost floating through the air” during the wildfires had a harder time igniting a metal roof than an asphalt one.
With a metal roof, she said, the flaming debris would “would fall off the roof and then ignite the foliage around the house.”
But experts who shared their opinion with the Honolulu Civil Beat offered another theory: During the renovation, the couple removed the vegetation situated close to their home, replacing some of it with river stones.
The Millikins were hoping to deter termites, they said, not thinking about the stones’ fire-resistant properties.
Michael Wara, of the Stanford Wood Institute for the Environment, told the Civil Beat that replacing the vegetation-heavy “ember ignition zone” immediately surrounding the house with non-combustible material was likely what saved it.
Atwater Millikin, meanwhile, told the L.A. Times that the couple is now hoping to give back to the community by using the home as a community hub for others trying to rebuild.