| Inset: KOHN2 News / Youtube

As wildfires continue to take over Maui, many locals have been forced to evacuate the island. Two men from Lahaina, a historic part of Maui that is a popular tourist location and is the biggest community on the island’s west side, described their experience as “hell” while they fled the island. “I saw a couple people just running, I heard screams out of hell … explosions. It felt like we were in hell, it really was. It was just indescribable,” said one of the men to Nexstar’s KHON. “You couldn’t really see anything, sometimes it was just blacked out by the smoke, but you could still see the flames,” said the other man. They were at home until the winds began to increase, blowing heat from the fires toward them. The heat became unbearable and began burning their skin. After 30 minutes, the men said the heat was too much to handle, so they called the police, who advised them to jump in the water. The men jumped in the water, skin still burning, and held onto a jetty for 30 minutes before the U.S Coast Guard rescued them. Once the Coast Guard arrived, one of the men said they were relieved knowing that they’d survive.  “I was like, after everything I’ve done, I don’t want to go out this way,” he said. “We’re like Coast Guard is here, hell or high water, we’re getting out.”

Unfortunately, not all residents have been as lucky as the two men who escaped the fires. At least 55 people have been killed in the Maui wildfires, with the number still rising. Three separate fires have been burning on Maui, prompting 13 evacuations, with only one road in and out. Shelters are overflowing with people, with more than 2,100 residents spending the night in four shelters on the island. Powerlines are down across the island, leaving homes, hotels and shelters without electricity. The fires are still not under control, and officials still haven’t figured out the cause of the wildfires. Many people speculate the cause of the fires is due to a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane. “I can tell you that we did not anticipate having this many fires simultaneously,” said Bissen. In a recorded statement, Bissen addressed the public during the tragic time, saying, “We are grieving with each other during this inconsolable time. In the days ahead, we will be stronger as a ‘kaiaulu,’ or community, as we rebuild with resilience and aloha.”

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