LAHAINA, Hawaii — One of the estimated nearly 2,000 homes that burned in Maui belonged to a Ray-Pec grad.
Justin and Monica Wilfong and daughter Emma lived about a block from the coast in the town of Lahaina hit hardest by these wildfires. They are thankful for their lives as they try to figure out what comes next.
Tuesday there were no warnings as they spotted a wildfire.
“It was just super windy that afternoon and I just happened to walk outside and I saw this huge plume of smoke and it looked like it was 3-4 blocks away. I went back inside and I told my wife get a couple bags together we need to get out of here and I went and told a neighbor the same thing I said don’t dilly dally,” Justin Wilfong said.
They are thankful they didn’t take any longer they did. People trying to flee the fire on the island created congestion.
“Just as we were getting on the lower highway to go north there was already power poles coming down,” Wilfong said.
At least 96 didn’t make it out alive, a number that’s expected to grow by 10-20 daily this week according to Hawaiian officials as cadaver dogs continue their searches. It’s already the deadliest U.S. wildfire in the past 100 years.
After nervously waiting out another fire near a friend’s home, they tried to let family back here in Raymore know they were OK.
“The first one I don’t think went out for a day and it said ‘fire happened we’re ok’ and it took me forever to get just that little text message out to my parents,” Wilfong said.
Wilfong returned this weekend to see their home in paradise reduced to ashes. The school where their daughter was set to start Kindergarten the next day was destroyed too. So now they are teaching Emma lessons in compassion and community.
“Boats have been coming in. Individuals have been bringing supplies swimming them ashore, bringing them ashore by wave runners. We took our little daughter down to see people on one of the supply runs it was very inspirational,” Wilfong said.
They waited hours in line for an application to try to get her enrolled in a different school. As much as they’d love to stay in Maui, they know it could be years or longer before Lahaina is able to rebuild.
“We want to see if we can get some things cleared up that we’d need to do on the island before we leave. But we might at some point we may head back with Mom and Dad in Raymore. It makes you really want to spend time with family,” Wilfong said.
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The American Red Cross is one of several organizations leading relief efforts in Hawaii. Text the word HAWAII to 90999 to make a $10 donation. A GoFundMe page has also been established to help the Wilfong family get back on their feet.