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See how one volunteer group organized aid deliveries after fire decimates Lahaina

The deadly wildfires in Maui, Hawaii fanned by winds from Hurricane Dora have destroyed the city of Lahaina and caused significant damage to the island.
Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
The deadly wildfires in Maui, Hawaii fanned by winds from Hurricane Dora have destroyed the city of Lahaina and caused significant damage to the island.

MAUI, Hawaii - The death toll from the wildfires that swept Maui this week continues to rise. Authorities now say more than 90 people have died, making it the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than 100 years. And on western Maui, residents are still having trouble getting answers.

The fire destroyed much of the historic town of Lahaina.

John Picard and his wife Maryam lost their home in Lahaina in the wildfire. They have slept in their vehicle for two nights and have been separated from their 13-year old daughter for 2 days. They are helping load donated pineapples onto a boat, the Reef Explorer which will be distributed in Lahaina. Jennifer Kogan, tour operator, offered to give them a ride to be reunited with their daughter.
/ Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
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Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
John Picard and his wife Maryam lost their home in Lahaina in the wildfire. They have slept in their vehicle for two nights and have been separated from their 13-year old daughter for 2 days. They are helping load donated pineapples onto Maui Reef Adventures' boat, which will be distributed in Lahaina. Jennifer Kogan, tour operator, offered to give them a ride to be reunited with their daughter.
Donated items for those affected by the wildfires are sorted at Buzz's Wharf in Maalaea Harbor.
/ Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
/
Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
Donated items for those affected by the wildfires are sorted at Buzz's Wharf in Maalaea Harbor.
Volunteers load donated items onto the Reef Explorer to be distributed to people in Lahaina.
/ Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
/
Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
Volunteers load donated items onto Maui Reef Adventures' boat to be distributed to people in Lahaina.

At Maalaea Harbor, a group of tour boat operators was loading supplies onto boats that usually take people out snorkeling or dolphin watching. They were taking supplies to people still in Lahaina, some people never left.

NPR reporter Jason DeRose spoke to Weekend Edition host Ayesha Rascoe about the trip.

RASCOE: So these tour boats were able to get into the burn zone?

DEROSE: That was the plan. Once they loaded up, we joined them for about a 45-minute boat ride to Lahaina. The green mountains give way to beaches and cliffs that give way to sparkling, cerulean ocean. It is stunning. Jennifer Kogan is one of the tour operators making these supply runs.

Jennifer Kogan is helping transport donated items to residents in need in the Lahaina area.
/ Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
/
Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
Jennifer Kogan is helping transport donated items to residents in need in the Lahaina area.
John Picard, right, talks to Jennifer Kogan. Kogan, center, offered to give Picard and his wife a boat ride to Lahaina to be reunited with their daughter since they are unable to drive on the closed road to Lahaina.
/ Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
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Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
John Picard, right, talks to Jennifer Kogan. Kogan, center, offered to give Picard and his wife a boat ride to Lahaina to be reunited with their daughter since they are unable to drive on the closed road to Lahaina.

JENNIFER KOGAN: We're going to be going just north of Lahaina, since that area is secured. And what we've got with us today are a variety of supplies - water, fuel, a huge donation from Maui Gold pineapples. We've also got bedding, toiletries and everything else, baby supplies...

L to R: Cody Young and  Scott Sanchez from the local surfing community are shuttling donated items on jet boats to get them from large boats to the shore on the north side of Lahaina.
/ Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
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Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
L to R: Cody Young and Scott Sanchez from the local surfing community are shuttling donated items on jet boats to get them from large boats to the shore on the north side of Lahaina.

DEROSE: Also on the boat was Bully Kotter, who's lived on Maui for the past 50 years and in Lahaina itself for 45 years. He's a surf instructor. His home burned down Tuesday. The surfboards he rents out for classes were destroyed.

BULLY KOTTER: I'm angry. There could have been a lot more done to prevent all this. They told us that the fire was completely contained, so we let our guards down. I escaped behind a fire truck fleeing the fire.

/ Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
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Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR

DEROSE: Even though Kotter had just experienced this huge personal loss, he was there on the boat to help others.

RASCOE: What happened once you reached Lahaina?

DEROSE: So I should say authorities aren't allowing media into Lahaina, but we could see it from the boat. This is the western, the dry side of Maui. The mountains here aren't green. They're golden. Here's Bully Kotter again.

KOTTER: You can see the entire burn mark. So the fire came across because of the wind. It shifted over the bypass, and then it started making its way to a whole 'nother neighborhood called Wahikuli. Not all of Wahikuli got taken out, but all the coastline of it did. It almost made it to the civic center.

The local surfing community are shuttling donated items on jet boats from large boats to the shore in Lahaina.
/ Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
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Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
The local surfing community are shuttling donated items on jet boats from large boats to the shore in Lahaina.

DEROSE: We could see charred buildings and places where there had been buildings. It was like looking at a smile with missing teeth. And then out of nowhere, two jet skis approached the boat we were on, each with a couple of guys on them who were clearly surfers head to toe.

RASCOE: What were surfers doing there?

DEROSE: Well, they were there to help unload supplies, haul them about 100 yards from the boat to the beach. So all these people on the boat handed down cases of water and garbage bags full of ice and boxes of diapers. Over and over again, these two jet skis went back and forth between the boat and the beach.

The local surfing community are shuttling donated items on jet boats to get them from from large boats to the shore on the north side of Lahaina.
/ Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
/
Deanne Fitzmaurice for NPR
The local surfing community are shuttling donated items on jet boats to get them from from large boats to the shore on the north side of Lahaina.

DEROSE: And on the beach, about a dozen people in bathing suits charging into the ocean, carrying giant package of diapers over their heads, propane tanks, Vienna sausages and loading them into pickup trucks owned by locals waiting to take them to anyone in need.

RASCOE: And you said these people on the tour boat had lost homes and businesses themselves.

DEROSE: You know, Ayesha, that's what was so moving, to see these neighbors caring for each other, filling in gaps not being filled right now by official channels. And when I asked what they were going to do next, they said they'd rest a bit. Then they'd make another supply run on Monday.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Deanne Fitzmaurice
Jason DeRose
Jason DeRose is the Western Bureau Chief for NPR News, based at NPR West in Culver City. He edits news coverage from Member station reporters and freelancers in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Alaska and Hawaii. DeRose also edits coverage of religion and LGBTQ issues for the National Desk.
Jonaki Mehta
Jonaki Mehta is a producer for All Things Considered. Before ATC, she worked at Neon Hum Media where she produced a documentary series and talk show. Prior to that, Mehta was a producer at Member station KPCC and director/associate producer at Marketplace Morning Report, where she helped shape the morning's business news.
Lauren Sommer
Lauren Sommer covers climate change for NPR's Science Desk, from the scientists on the front lines of documenting the warming climate to the way those changes are reshaping communities and ecosystems around the world.