Update from Maui: Life After the Wildfires

As a Maui resident and realtor, I’m used to talking about the tremendous joys of island life. For as much as I love to share what it’s like to live on Maui, nothing could have prepared me for the devastating Lahaina wildfires last year. I believe that’s why it’s taken so long for me to sit down and write this blog.

heart signfor lahaina

It’s been seven months since that terrible August day. Seven months since my kids had their backpacks ready for their first day back at school in Lahaina. Seven months since we evacuated our home in the middle of the night to an ominous red, smoke-filled sky, not knowing that by morning, our beloved Lahaina town would be reduced to ash. In the aftermath of the fires, we spent time helping friends and neighbors, navigating distance learning, volunteering in our community, and counting our blessings as we still have a home and each other.

Unexpected Tragedy

None of us were prepared for what occurred on August 8th. There were no hurricane warnings or watches issued, no sirens sounded, and no notice was given for what turned out to be the deadliest US wildfire in the past century. We hadn’t stocked up on food or water, gassed up our cars, or filled propane tanks like we usually do during storm warnings. Tragically, 100 lives were lost, approximately 2,300 homes/businesses burned down, and our Lahaina schools and most West Maui businesses were shuttered for several months.

red smoke as fire burns in west maui

My daughter took this photo from our driveway as we evacuated that night.

Everyone experienced varying levels of trauma that day, yet one common thread emerged — we love Maui and will do all we can to help Lahaina rise again.

lahaina strong sign

My son hanging a sign at his school prior to the reopening in October.

A New Normal

The kids going back to their Lahaina public schools in mid-October was evidence of the strength shown in this tight-knit community. Faculty, staff and community members all worked together to ensure a safe return for our children. This year, we have two kids in middle school at Lahaina Intermediate, and two in high school at Lahainaluna. Our daughter is a senior and is excited to graduate from the school she loves. We will be there in May with tears in our eyes as we watch those resilient kids walk across the stage to accept their diplomas.

luna strong tshirt

All of the Lahainaluna High School kids received this Luna Strong shirt from a donor organization.

people distributing hoodies and shirts

I met an angel donor who agreed to gift custom, hooded sweatshirts to all 400 kids at Lahaina Intermediate School where 75% of students lost their homes. I was moved to tears by her generosity and was grateful to distribute them in December.

The Strength of an Island

Through this trying time, we truly witnessed the best of Maui. We watched neighbors helping neighbors, and community members emerge with stronger voices than ever to advocate for our island. We’ve seen kind-hearted teachers love and support their students, even though many of them lost their homes too. Our kids have learned to recognize when their friends need an extra hug or phone call. And we’ve been brought to tears by the kindness of strangers who have generously donated to our schools and community. THIS IS MAUI, and I’ve never been more proud to be a resident of this incredible island.



About the Author

Stefanie Hegrenes

Stefanie Hegrenes is a REALTOR Salesperson with Hawai'i Life. Born and raised in Minnesota, Stefanie and her husband decided to make Maui home after years of dreaming of an island life for them and their four young children. She enjoys helping others realize their dreams and is grateful to call the beautiful island of Maui home. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 214-8114.

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March 7, 2024

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings within this blog. I am touched by this tragedy and feel helpless except to offer prayers and monetary contributions where/when I can. You have brought a very real sense of what you experienced and I appreciate hearing about Maui and where you and the community are today.

Stefanie Hegrenes

March 7, 2024

> Thank you Cathy, that’s so kind of you! All the best to you!

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