Maui residents who disobeyed the barrier survived the fires: AP
Those who disobeyed the blocking of the fortified roads during the Maui fires escaped disaster, while many who heeded orders to turn perished in their cars and homes with no way out. The Associated Press reported.
At least 114 people were killed in the fires earlier this month, and the FBI estimates that up to 1,100 more are missing. Officials face increased scrutiny over emergency response, including why sirens were not sounded and whether road closures were preventing people from getting to safety.
In the early hours of the Maui fires, more than 30 power poles were downed along the Honopilani Highway at the southern end of Lahaina — a historic city that was destroyed by fires earlier this month. Officials closed the Lahaina bypass due to the fires, blocking the only way out of Lahaina to the southern part of the island.
Maui Police Chief John Pelletier said during a news conference that officers never stopped people from leaving the area, but the AP report notes that residents were discouraged from disobeying the barrier.
One family swerved around a barrier erected to escape the flames, while another resident took a dirt path uphill to climb over the fire, according to the Associated Press. However, many of the other people who remained in the cars on this road were stuck in a dead end, with fires surrounding them on most sides and the perimeter on the remaining side.
Nate Bird and Courtney Stapleton recounted their experience to the enforcer, saying they loaded into the car with their two sons, Bird’s mother and one dog to escape the flames. When they turned south to escape Lahaina, they were met by cones and told to turn around to Lahaina, which was already burning.
Instead of turning, they swerved past the cones and fled into a nearby town.
“Nobody realized how little time we really had,” Bird said. “Like even from Heart of Fire, we didn’t understand. As if we had literally minutes and one wrong pervert. We’re all going to die now.”
Bird told the reporter that if they had had 10 more minutes, they could have saved the children who were left alone at home in their neighborhood during the fires.
“Children don’t have a filter. So their son ran up and said to our son, you know, ‘This kid died. This child died. “All of my son’s friends come to our house every day,” he said. “And their parents were at work, and they were home alone. And no one had a warning. No one, no one, no one knew.”
Kim Cuevas Reyes said she and her two sons survived by ignoring orders to turn right onto Front Street, now destroyed by fires. Instead, she turned left and drove in the wrong lane to escape the city.
“Inertia could have left us there when the firestorm came,” Cuevas Reyes, 38, told the Associated Press. “I had to tell my kids to jump in the ocean too and boil alive in the flames, or we would just die from smoke inhalation and charring in the car.”