Deadly wildfires that started on Tuesday, Aug. 8 in Maui have scorched several parts of the Hawaiian island, prompting local efforts in Southern California to support those affected.
The fires, which have taken the lives of at least 80 people as of Saturday afternoon, have wrecked homes, restaurants and shops, Maui County officials said. In a statement, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green warned the death toll would likely rise as search and rescue operations continue.
Lahaina, a historic city and popular travel spot, was reduced to ash. Around 13,000 locals were forced to evacuate, along with many tourists residing in the area.
As of Saturday, at least three wildfires were burning on the island of Maui, with the fire in Lahaina now 85% contained, officials said. Over 1,500 buildings and structures were destroyed, with a majority classified as residential, and power outages have hit several parts of the island. Over 2,000 acres have burned.
The wildfires are the state’s deadliest natural disaster in decades, officials said.
While the direct cause of the fires is not yet known, the National Weather Service previously reported high winds and dry weather across the islands, conditions now fueling the island wildfires in Maui. Devastated survivors were forced to abandon their homes and belongings, as the fire decimated parts of the island.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced federal disaster relief for Hawaii on Friday, including available mortgage insurance, tribal support and assistance with housing discrimination.
In California — home to the most Native Hawaiians compared with any other North American state, according to nonprofit Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California — local Hawaiian and Pacific Islander residents, groups and businesses across the southland are spearheading relief efforts to help those in need.
Here are some local efforts throughout the region:
- South Bay: Aunty Maile’s Hawaiian Restaurant in Torrance and other organizations are collecting supplies with the International Longshoreman & Warehouse Union in Wilmington. People can bring high-demand items such as baby food, diapers, sleeping bags, toiletries, blankets, flashlights and batteries. Items can be dropped off at the ILWU Memorial Hall, 231 W. C St. in Wilmington, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Items can also be brought to Aunty Maile’s in Torrance, 19106 Normandie Ave., Suite 2, through Aug. 17. Phone: 310-819-8314.
- Costa Mesa: Hawaiian street food ‘Ai Pono Cafe is accepting donations from clothing to hygiene products through Sunday, Aug. 13. Address: 283 E. 17th St., Suite A. Jonesea Wetsuits, 2640 Grace Lane, Suite C., in Costa Mesa, is also a donation hub open seven days a week. Phone: 714-657-6994.
- Chino Hills/Diamond Bar/Walnut: Chef Charles Akau, with the pop-up Mila’s Kitchen Hawaii, is partnering with small businesses and organizations in the area for a future plate lunch fundraiser, with 100% of proceeds going to Maui relief. Info: @milaskitchenhawaii
- LA area: Local Hawaiian businesses across the L.A. region have put together fundraising efforts, including the Aloha Food Factory in Alhambra, which is donating 10% of sales through the end of the month. Address: 2990 W Valley Blvd, Alhambra. Honu Coffee in Santa Clarita is donating $1 from sales of its Nutty Hawaiian drink to the Kokua Lahaina Fund, now through August 17. Address: 22722 Lyons Ave, Santa Clarita.
Retailers and non-profits across L.A., Orange County and the Inland Empire have started their own Maui relief campaigns.
Through the end of August, L&L Hawaiian BBQ is donating $1 to the American Red Cross of Hawaii for each mobile app or online order at any one of their locations. Ono Hawaiian BBQ donated 50% of all online orders placed on Aug. 11 to the Hawaii Community Foundation.
The LifeStream Blood Bank, which has mobile blood drives and has donor centers throughout the Inland Empire, is sending pints to the Blood Bank of Hawaii to help wildfire victims. Centers are located throughout the region, including in San Bernardino, Riverside, Ontario, Murrieta and Hemet. Information, appointments and eligibility requirements can be found online at lstream.org, or call 800-879-4484.
Local churches and faith groups have also started their own community efforts. The Riverside-based Harvest Church, which has a campus in Lahaina, started a Maui relief fund to support those affected. Catholic Charities of Orange County called for donations to its Hawaii branch. Local Jewish Federation organizations have started campaigns.
Los Alamitos resident Kiele Kasiano was “devastated” when she heard her grandparents’ home in Lahaina — where her father and siblings grew up — was completely burned. Kasiano’s family members were safe, but many have been displaced, she said, and getting a hold of them has been challenging.
She shared fond childhood memories of visiting her grandparents and having family gatherings at the house. Her father and his siblings had just visited Maui for a family reunion in the spring.
“The house was the last piece of my grandparents, and now it’s gone,” Kasiano said. “I never in a million years thought that this would happen. Even though my friends and family are accounted for; I feel robbed that I’ll never get to expose my children to their culture there. I will never get to show my kids the house where my Papa grew up in. I will never get to show them Front Street, or the walk to the beach. They won’t get to see the historical buildings, museums and bilingual churches.”
“As a Native Hawaiian, it’s devastating. You feel like you lost a part of yourself,” she continued, “even though we will rise again, it won’t be the same.”
As a way to help her grieve and process, Kasiano has been collecting donations — tarps, tents, canned goods, bottles of water and more — to with her hālau dance group, Halau Hula Lani Ola in Laguna Hills. She’s been going to the ILWU Memorial Hall in Wilmington almost daily to drop items off and put the shipping containers together with fellow volunteers.
“You really feel the spirit of aloha there… it’s been overwhelming, emotional. It’s laborious, hard work but we’re all doing this for our families,” she added. “A lot of the volunteers have ties to Maui or are Native Hawaiian. When one part of the island goes down, we all are there for each other.”
Note: This list of resources will be updated.