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The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

The student news site of Dickinson College.

The Dickinsonian

Lahaina residents look to rebuild six months after fires


It has been six months since the deadly Maui fire ravaged the small historic town of Lahaina, taking the lives of at least 100 people. With news coverage having died down since last August, you might be wondering where the town stands now. 

Following the containment of the fire, Lahaina residents had nowhere to go. Many residents lost their entire livelihoods, their friends and family members, and local businesses that had been around for 50 or more years. Many organizations formed GoFundMe campaigns and donation sites so that residents could receive access to clean water, food, clothes and medical aid. 

Celebrity Jason Mamoa used his platform to help raise money for Lahaina residents directly following the disaster. Dwayne Johnson and Oprah Winfrey established the People’s Fund of Maui to help raise awareness about the town’s needs, raise funds for survivors and urge tourists to cease travel to Maui following the aftermath of the fire. 

Now, residents are wondering how to rebuild. Maui relies heavily on tourist sites like Lahaina to support the local economy. Its residents now wonder how they should rebuild Lahaina and if it is even possible to return it to how it once was.

Perhaps the most prevalent conversation as the Lahaina community rebuilds is whether they should prioritize their status as a tourist destination. Is that their only option? Community members wonder if they have an economy without tourist dollars. 

Residents grappling with those questions include Nicole and Silver Aly, owners of Kealani’s Juice Co., an açaí bowl and fresh juice business. They operate out of a van that they converted into their mobile business. They were directly impacted by the fire, losing everything but the business van they fled in. 

Despite losing everything, including their two cats, they reopened their van in January. Unfortunately, business has been slow due to the lack of tourism on the island. Aly says she “encourage[s] tourism. We need visitors to come back to Maui and support us. The lack of tourism is affecting the entire island. We thrive off of visitors coming to enjoy the island. Many families have moved off island due to the lack of housing and work in hospitality.” 

Aly believes that Lahaina will rebuild but it will never be the same. Nonetheless, she encourages visitors to visit the beautiful Maui and continue to help support the local economy. 

Extreme fires like the one in Lahaina are becoming increasingly prevalent and dangerous. With the changing climate, places like Maui are bearing the brunt of extreme weather events. Prior to the start of the fire, Hurricane Dora was causing extreme winds and dry conditions, extremely favorable for a fire as hot and wild as the one in Lahaina. Residents of islands like Maui often bear the brunt of these natural disasters, forcing them to leave their homes behind, like in Nicole and Silver’s case. 

There are several organizations continuing to support the Lahaina fire survivors. The Maui Strong Fund and the People’s Fund of Maui both ensure that donations go directly to the victims of the fire.


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