Lahaina wildfire survivors: “It’s hard knowing all of Lahaina needs help.”
August 28, 2023, 5:44 PM HST
* Updated August 28, 11:24 PM
Of the 84 Mowat ‘ohana members who call Lahaina home, 56 were left houseless after five of their properties and three rentals were destroyed in the Aug. 8 wildfire.
Governor Josh Green, who visited with shelter members at the Hyatt said the destruction from the Lahaina wildfire spans 5.5 square miles, stretching from Wahikuli to Puamana.
Many of the Mowat family members are being housed at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort, where Kekoa Mowat is the head of Security. He expressed gratitude for friends and the community, but said “It’s hard knowing that all of Lahaina needs help.”
Connor Mowat said Lahaina is more than just a town on the west side. “Lahaina is us—it’s us as people… We know your family from mountain to the sea, from Nāpili to Olowalu. We know everybody here. We may not be blood related, we might not be super close and understand everybody, but we know each other.”
Connor said that while he was very fortunate for his immediate family to get out and survive, he said there are still many families that have missing loved ones.
“People are still looking… to see our friends, our family go through this and looking for people, that’s the toughest part,” said Connor.
According to Kekoa Mowat, 75 hotel employees and their families, which total 250 people were housed from the first night at the Hyatt. “With no delivery service, and no power—just being able to help out and open the freezers and cook food for everybody—It was great support form the hotel. That was happening up and down the strip,” he said.
Kekoa said it’s been helpful to have the Family Assistance Center in house to assist displaced individuals in person. “There’s so many things going on out there and it’s hard to understand what is real and what is not real, so to have someplace that you can go and talk to real people is great, instead of trying to figure it out on a phone call or text,” he said.
Connor, who has a two month old child, said that while he has supplies from donations, many families still need support. “We can’t do this on our own, no matter how strong we are. Anyone you talk to from Lahaina, as well, they’re not going to come up to you and say, ‘Hey we need the help’… I never thought I would have to ask. I feel weird asking, because we don’t want to rely on people, but at this point, we just need the support. And we need people to understand that we might not ask, but we definitely need that right now.”
Kekoa said that the biggest fear is the future. “We know we’re going to fade from the spotlight. That’s the biggest fear—what happens in six months, or when our house hasn’t started to be built yet. Where do we go? West side had problems with housing before we lost all the houses, so to find someplace for us to stay… is going to be tough,” he said.
“We can rebuild, we know it’s going to happen, but that’s the biggest question. What happens in two months when we’re not the center… How do we pay our mortgage and rent. It’s nobody’s fault,” said Kekoa.
He explained that there was a disaster before the fire. “We lost roofs, trees were down. I think we had eight cars smashed here on property from trees falling. And poles were down, not because of the fire, not because of the wind. So [to] blame anybody is wrong… I don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. It was a natural disaster and we have to deal with it as it is,” said Kekoa.
“Thinking about the future is hard. The gap between the houses built and now—what happens in that period. Once the house is built, we have someplace to stay, that’s great, but the uncertainty is the hard part,” said Kekoa.
Kekoa who is also on the coaching staff at Lahainaluna said he is looking forward to the football team playing on the 30th. “We’re very excited for that. We’re just looking for a practice field,” he said with a laugh. After a vote by the players, the consensus it that the team wants to come back. “We’re going to field a team with the players we have and see what happens, but there’s always going to be some good points at bad times and I think that’s a good point,” he said.
“They have that opportunity to make a town proud and give us hope one more time. So it’s definitely a nice thing… and hopefully we can get all the sports back for Lahainaluna this year. That’s going to be our hope,” said Connor.