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Wauwatosa family visiting Maui hopes to return home soon as wildfires devastate island

As of Thursday, Maui officials had said 55 people died from the wildfires, which tore through the historic city of Lahaina.
Posted at 4:32 PM, Aug 11, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-11 17:56:57-04

A family from Wauwatosa vacationing in Maui says they hope to return home this weekend after wildfires swept across the Hawaiian Island.

"We're together, we're all safe," said Joy Meier. "We've been really lucky."

Meier, her husband, kids, and family friends were driving back toward their hotel near Lahaina on Tuesday when they ran into traffic. The highway was closed.

"In a very short period of time that fire must have taken over that city," said Meier.

They couldn't get back, she said and eventually found a refugee shelter in a high school. But they didn't stay long.

"It was crazy. We got out of our car and took a look. We could see embers from a fourth fire that popped up Tuesday night," said Meier.

Out of an abundance of caution, they slept in their minivans in the parking lot farther north.

As of Thursday, Maui officials had said 55 people died from the wildfires, which tore through the historic city of Lahaina. The fire in Lahaina had mostly been contained on Thursday as winds died down, according to officials.

President Joe Biden has approved an emergency declaration to free up federal resources for relief efforts.

The Meier family and their friends were able to secure hotel rooms after their first night in minivans. Joy Meier also said her husband was able to return to their original hotel to retrieve their belongings.

"It was really horrifying and heartbreaking to see some of the video he took. The bus driver was from Lahaina. She was very emotional," said Meier.

Meier said her family has a flight out Saturday morning. Before they leave, she said, they hope to buy items to donate to those who have lost so much.

"I mean it's horrifying. I was in Target yesterday trying to pick up a few things before I'd realize we'd be able to get our things back. And you see people, there were several people crying and hugging. It's really made me realize what a small island this is and what a family it is. I'm just devastated for these people," said Meier.

The Hawai'i Community Foundation is now collecting donations to help support communities affected by the wildfires.

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