▶ Watch Video: Boat captain recounts rescues as people jumped in water to escape Maui wildfires

The wildfires that engulfed parts of Hawaii’s landscape last week led to desperate residents seeking refuge in the ocean to escape the flames. But even the water offered no sanctuary as pockets of fire emerged, creating a surreal and terrifying ordeal for those trying to flee.

Chrissy Lovitt, a boat captain from Lahaina, a Maui town almost entirely destroyed by fast-moving wildfires, emerged as a local hero as she navigated her boat through the hazardous waters, rescuing children in the water while her marina became engulfed in flames around her. 

Alongside her wife, Emma, Lovitt secured her vessel as the flames closed in at around 70-80 knots.

“We were just trying to get as many people out as possible,” Lovitt said.

“We pulled two children out of the water. That was all we could find. Physically find and then, as far as getting people to the harbor, it was six or seven or eight,” she said.

Lovitt said she knew a few mariners who faced difficulties in evacuating their boats from the harbor. Given the powerful 80-mile-an-hour winds, the force of the wind would have overwhelmed their vessel

Footage from social media and eyewitnesses captured the nightmarish conditions. Videos showed the ocean itself ablaze in some areas, as flames danced on the water’s surface. “It literally looks like we’re in hell,” she said.

The death toll in the Maui wildfires reached at least 111 Wednesday and is expected to rise.

Lovitt said that the skiff encountered a motor malfunction during the rescue. Despite the uncertainty surrounding their motor, she continued to try to rescue as many people as possible but said she carries guilt that she could have saved more.

In total, Lovitt lost three boats that day. Despite being called a hero, Lovitt said the focus right now should be on the people of Lahaina and the road to recovery ahead.

“People have it so much worse than me, and just pray for them…I don’t know really what to look forward to. You know, in the future, just it’s good to be supported by the community, and I’m happy to be there supporting them as well,” she said.