People in, a Maui town by fast-moving wildfires, have shared horrific tales of how they had to fight to escape the blaze.
Some hid in the ocean to stay safe, while others took their chances driving out of town before traffic became impassable. Many are still searching for family, friends and loved ones. So far, at least 110 people are confirmed dead, with many more missing and few bodies .
Residents and tourists alike said they were caught in the fast-moving flames because, and had to think quickly to survive.
Woman vacationing in Maui spent hours in hotel pool surrounded by flames
Kristina Lee-Garrido told CBS News that she was on vacation with a friend when the fires started. They were in a rental unit, and soon, that building was on fire.
“We were in our rooms and the front part of the building started on fire, so we ran to the back part, the pool, and it continued to burn while we were in the pool,” Lee-Garrido said. “We could not see another living soul. It was thick black smoke, so we knew we needed to get to the pool. There were no other options.”
Camera footage taken by her and her friend shows the building burning and smoke pouring into the sky, while a woman in the pool holds a piece of fabric over her face. Lee-Garrido said it took between two and a half to three hours for emergency responders to rescue them.
“We jumped into the pool and stayed there, contacted EMS through the SOS system on our iPhone and they told us to wait. They said, ‘You’re in the safest place right now. Don’t move. We’ve pinged you.’ So we just waited for somebody to come and get us.”
Woman says she watched from road as her mom’s house burned
Katheleen Cardenas-Haro, a mom of two, told CBS News that she and her family left their house after seeing fires “taking a house each at a time and just going all over the neighborhood.” She, her husband and their children wound up standing on an overpass, where she saw her mother’s home was on fire. Because of communication issues, Cardenas-Haro wasn’t able to contact her mother or her siblings right away.
“There was no way to get to her or to see if the apartment was still standing,” Cardenas-Haro said.
Thankfully, her mother survived, but Cardenas-Harothat might have alerted people to danger earlier.
“They should have ran the sirens, because even if it wasn’t a tsunami, people would have been aware something’s going on, taken a look outside, seen the fire coming to them,” Cardenas-Haro said. “A lot of people I guess couldn’t smell it. Maybe some were sleeping, all the kids with no school. That would have woken them up. That would have made them alert and see … But the fact that they didn’t do that, that I think caused a lot, a lot of unnecessary loss.”
Couple expecting baby in just weeks recalls narrow escape
Tasha Anderson and Kevin Campbell said in an appearance on CBS News that they hesitated to leave, because Anderson was eight months pregnant.
“I was pretty adamant about not leaving, honestly,” Anderson said. I was like ‘This is our home, this is where we built our home and our nursery.’ Everything was there. If it weren’t for Kevin, we probably wouldn’t have left. He definitely made that call for the both of us, for all of us.”
Campbell said he knew it was time to go when he rode his scooter down to the highway and caught a glimpse of the fire. He had already been concerned about high winds that he’d observed earlier in the day, and when he arrived at the highway, he saw that the flames were close – and moving fast.
We would’ve had to run at some point. I just made the call a little earlier,” Campbell said. “I came back to the house in a panic and tried to get the people that I could get to get in the cars with us to go. We didn’t grab anything extra. I felt like we couldn’t leave fast enough.”
Woman fled the flames, then spent days waiting for aid
Hotel managertold CBS News that she actually “blindly” drove into Lahaina, searching for her son, as the fires came closer to the town. She sat in traffic, in “fear and panic,” when she heard a man on a motorcycle warn another driver about the conditions ahead: “If you continue to head into Lahaina, you’re not gonna make it out alive.” She decided to turn back, returning to the hotel where she worked, which was not burned.
“There was a lot of emotional hotel workers there. There was a lot of sad stories. And my team members coming back to work, smelling like fire, in ash, black, crying, telling me, ‘I don’t have nothing left except this shirt. Can I please stay here?'” Kahula said.
The workers and guests stayed in the hotel for several days. Kahula said they reached “a point to where we could only provide food for the children.” On Wednesday, she was able to drive out of the area, leading her to question why government aid took so long to arrive.
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“It’s hard. It’s really hard. I feel like there’s so much more that could have been done in different ways, you know? … I’m not a first responder, I’m not a government official and a politician in any way,” Kahula said. “I don’t have any say or my hands in any part of that, but coming from the hospitality industry, we did everything we could there, you know, and I just feel, like, I feel like there should have been more done sooner, faster.”
Teenagers spent hours in the ocean
Two Maui teenagersthat they waded in the Pacific Ocean for five hours after traffic made it impossible to drive out of Lahaina. The boys stood with their mother in chest- to shoulder-deep water, watching the flames roar. Their father was on the other side of the island, unable to communicate with them.
“(It was) like last resort time, because the fire was like across the street at this point,” 19-year-old Noah Tomkinson said. “So we were like, yeah, we’ve got to jump in the ocean… and then, once we got in the water, just all the wind and just all the fire, and the smog just are coming straight toward us.”
Woman who lost home said a friend told her family to flee
Pamela Reader, who lived in Lahaina with her family, told CBS News that it wasn’t an evacuation order or emergency siren that made her realize it was time to leave: It was a friend who was riding a bicycle, warning people it was time to go.
“He had been on a bicycle, driving around our neighborhood, just telling people to get out, covered in soot, and I think that’s what made people take him seriously. He was clearly near the fire and we knew it was coming closer,” Reader said. “By the time we got to our car, which wasn’t that far … we saw flames maybe a block and a half away, two blocks away.”
Reader said her home burned. She and her family are now in a rental home in South Maui, on the opposite side of the island from where the fires were.
“Our whole town is gone. It’s insane,” said Reader. “My whole neighborhood is gone, my whole community. The places we go to eat dinner, where my daughters eat ice cream. We’re just devastated.”