I Don't Have a House - I Have a Home: Lahaina Fire & How the Maui Community Rallied - Sakamoto Properties

I Don’t Have a House – I Have a Home: Lahaina Fire & How the Maui Community Rallied

Home » Betty’s Hawaii Real Estate Corner » I Don’t Have a House – I Have a Home: Lahaina Fire & How the Maui Community Rallied
August 17, 2023
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Betty Sakamoto: Aloha and welcome to Betty’s Real Estate Corner, brought to you by Coldwell Banker Sakamoto Properties, and I don’t even know what else to say right this minute.

Roy Sakamoto: Yeah, it’s a little bit more of a somber tone to our show today, given that the devastating fires that happened in Lahaina last week. Very, very sad. Lahaina, as many of you know, was the former capital of Hawai’i, former whaling capital also. Lots and lots of history and basically no longer exist.

BS: It’s such a hard moment, but I’ve thought of so many things to try to say and that might help. Nothing I think, will really help. But I really thought that I mean, we our home is fine. We’re very fortunate. We’re past Lahaina and we feel very blessed by that. But for many, I mean, it’s a nightmare.

BS: I thought about it a lot and this is our life now for all of us. It’s not going to change for a long time. We need to do everything we can to help one another. Somehow I thought, let’s just make it as great as possible, love every minute that we have left, any of us.

BS: We’re so fortunate and we should realize now how fortunate we are. We could have gone for dinner in Lahaina and have been stuck in our cars. Anything could have happened to anyone in Lahaina. I think if we can do everything that you can think of that we could do to help one another, and if nothing else, let’s smile.

BS: Let’s always remember to smile. I keep saying the old adage of, “Remember when you smile, the world smiles with you and when you frown, you frown alone”. So for right now, let’s all smile. No matter how painful it is for you today, and no matter how hard your life is. And then for your children, we’ve watched so many people with young children and they’re making the best of it.

BS: They’re doing, they’re working so hard at it. But every day has to be so hard. And to remember it with your kids just smile, do your best with a little tap on the head when they’re asking the same question over and over – as well as I’m doing, too. But let’s just remember to be kind, just be kind to them, listen to them, understand their fears.

BS: They’re afraid for their friends and they’re afraid for you. And they’re afraid that you could go away and not come back tomorrow.

RS: Yeah. A good friend of ours coined the phrase, “Practice Aloha”, Thank you, Mark Ellman. I know you’re in a better place right now, but Mark coined the phrase. “Practice Aloha”. He distributed many, many bumper stickers that just says that. Practice Aloha. Right now, in our time, we need to practice aloha. The community here in Maui has been fantastic, coming together and helping those of us in West Maui that need help.

RS: It’s been a tremendous, tremendous effort. It’s not only Maui. I mean, it’s been statewide and it’s been worldwide really, as far as help, people extending their hands to say, “Hey, what do you guys need? How can we help?”, it’s really very much appreciated. As an example, we have a son in Portland. He manages one of our favorite stores, a Trader Joe’s.

RS: And his store started a fund for Maui, a cash fund to help the displaced first responders, the firemen, the police officers, the medical personnel who lost their homes, apartments. They will be forwarding their funds to a charity I designate for them, soon. Here they are in Portland and they’re reaching out. Trader Joe’s is also amassing supplies and so forth to send over.

RS: I’m sure there are other chains that are extending their helping hand out to us. Any help we can get is much, much appreciated.

BS: You know, it’s an interesting thing. Today, I remembered something that I haven’t thought about for a long time. Sue Cooley, who’s the lady that built the stadium. Sue D Cooley, Sue D Cooley Field.

RS: In Lahaina.

Bs: In Lahaina, it’s spectacular. Lahainaluna High School has a field right now. It’s safe. Everything is fine. But I remembered at one time, to me, I don’t think we even realized how important she was or in her world. She came here. We had known her for probably 30 years, and you still don’t know things, but her husband had passed away and we spent a lot of time with her doing things. But once I was in her house and I realized that she would take like paper towels and they come off the smaller piece in a one, two, three, four.

BS: And they’re small now. They’re not as big as they used to be. She would take that and cut it in half. So she would only use half at a time and then she’d reuse them. She’d let them dry and I mean, I would look at it and think,” Oh my God Sue, what are you doing?” And then today, for some reason, I was taking off the paper towels and I looked at it and I thought, “This is so stupid. I’m going to wipe my hands on this. I don’t need the whole thing”, and I grabbed a scissors, and in Sue’s honor, I cut them in half. It’s easy. It’s not that hard to do it. It seems ridiculous, but it’s one more thing. I mean, if we took every little thing that we have right now in West Maui and we did our best to reuse and to be comfortable with what we have and to cut our paper towels in half.

BS: You used one today. It was okay. It worked to wipe your face and coffee and whatever. So Sue D Cooley, we will never, ever, ever stop loving Sue Cooley,

RS: Oh, totally. Yeah. Again, talking about how people are rallying to help Maui, West Maui in particular. Even though we had fires in Kula and unfortunately lost some homes up in the Kula area also, and as well as, I’m not sure if we lost any homes in Kihei, but West Maui, of course, has been devastated.

RS: Many, many thanks to the volunteers who brought over supplies, water, MEMA. Maui Emergency Management people came over many, many volunteers. It was fantastic. I know Costco, for one, donated cases and cases and cases of water and toilet paper. The whole community coming together is heartwarming. We did our small part by helping to distribute food and water, Thursday and Friday at Kapalua.

RS: There were many, many people in line.

BS: Four hours.

RS: Well, some of them had to wait four hours. Yeah, but we had a chance to talk to quite a few of them. Most of them have lost their homes and very sad. A lot of them ran out of their homes with with no wallet, no cash, no Identification, just lucky to get out with the clothes on their back and lucky to be alive, and so thank you, the Maui the emergency personnel, the Maui Food Bank, Costco, and all the other establishments that donated tons and tons of supplies.

BS: So many people also talked to us about their pets and not being able to get their pets reeled in, in order to get in the car. We’ve all heard stories about people that have died in their cars, which is horrible. A lot of those I think we’re stuck on Front Street. But when you listen to someone that’s got four kids in the car with them and they’re waiting to be able to go back and see if they can locate their pets, I can’t imagine the pain of that because we have pets.

BS: Our kids are grown and have moved on and they’ve got pets of their own. But I mean, to think of just losing your little cat, your dog, and how panicked they must be, it’s a horrible story. The Humane Society, I know is out there. They’re doing their best.

RS: They’re doing a fantastic job.

BS: In Napili, they’re giving away pet food.

RS: Pet food and offering medical help for pets, dogs, cats and so forth.

BS: Whatever they can do. They’re working at it there.

RS: Right. So, again, many, many thanks to all the volunteers and these organizations, the Maui Food Bank has been fantastic. The Hawai’i Community Foundation has set up a special Maui Strong fund. Funds for direction to Maui and West Maui in particular. So thank you to the Hawai’i Community Foundation. It’s heartwarming.

BS: It is amazing that they’re able to do what they’ve been able to do.

RS: In these dark times, there’s still some some people out there who are trying to take advantage of others. We’ve heard stories about realtors, and I’m not sure if they’re realtors or just posing as realtors , who are offering to try to buy properties at discount prices, and, hey I’ll give you a cash sign, over your land and so forth.

RS: I don’t think any licensed realtors are involved, but if they are, please stop this. This is not how we behave. We are not predatory realtors at all. In fact, many of our realtor clan are out there working in the field, handing out water, handing out supplies and so forth, basically going door to door is what I’ve heard for some of them.

RS: So realtors are doing their part and trying to restore our community back to normal.

BS: We had a bunch of Coldwell people today that were actually coming to West Maui on a bus and they were going to be between, I think, Kahana and Napili spreading out, just offering to help. Whatever the giveaway is there, whatever they’ve got that they can help people that come by looking for help.

RS: Right. In fact, we were at our kihei main office earlier this morning and we’ve got a load of diapers and so forth in the back of our car. Pull ups.

RS: Yeah.

BS: And we just thought, I mean, they were there and I thought, what if we take some of those with us? Because we know a lot of people that right now are staying in the hotels and it’s hard to get stuff. Costco right now. I went in there for just a minute. It is jammed. It is really, really jammed.

BS: And people are helpful. Everybody’s really doing their best. The employees there are great. But even just in the aisles, our microwave doesn’t work. We can’t make popcorn. No. Is that pathetic? But I looked for a little microwave to get, but it’s heavy. I mean, I had to have two people immediately that would help me get it down from an upper shelf because they were piled so high, I couldn’t get it.

BS: But everybody is being kind and helpful and trying. A lot of those people are have lost their homes.

RS: Yeah. The other day, Betty and I went to Dollie’s Pub and Pizza and we bought a bunch of pizzas for our first responders. We went down to the local police station, at Lahaina Civic Center, dropped off a bunch of pizzas, and then the fire station right next door, dropped off a bunch of pizzas. To look on the faces of the police officers and the firemen they are exhausted, but, boy, they appreciated us bringing pizzas. The big smiles. A lot of them had ash blackened faces and so forth. They had just gotten back from the field and it was great to just see a smile on their face.

BS: It was super.

RS: Yeah. Thank you community for helping.

BS: Then we went to Napili.

RS: Yes.

BS: We didn’t get to Napili right away.

BS: Dr. Estin, Hello?

Norman Estin: Aloha Betty.

BS: Hey, I’m glad you’re on the phone with us.

RS: Hello, Dr. Astin.

BS: We kind of told what you’ve been doing and that you’ve got to be totally exhausted, but you were going to give us like a five, 10 minutes, something breakdown of what’s really happening out there. Medically? Yeah, go ahead.

NE: It’s pretty fantastic what’s happened in a week. This is different from an on going, these last four months, this is more like an earthquake or a flood where you’ve got a drought, terrible disaster, and then you’ve got a period of figuring out what resources you have and how to distribute them and where they go.

NE: On one hand, the mental images, is you look to right at the resort and Kapalua looked beautiful and pristine with islands in the background, to the left it’s a black wasteland of Lahaina, which is essentially totally burnt and partially toxic. I think medically, most of the facilities got wiped out in Lahaina. Maui Medical Clinic is gone, Kaiser Clinic is gone.

NE: A bunch of private offices are gone. Our facility, Doctors on Call up in Honokowai, North Kaanapali. Essentially the only fully functional clinic on the West Side. Emergency services are now being given very, very well by Kaiser. They brought over a trailer that is in Lahaina Gateway. They have a tent and a number of outreaches there as well.

NE: They’ve set up a tent in Honokowai Park and a tent in Napili Park. So all the immediate needs of the West Maui residents are being filled. That will probably be for a couple of weeks. And then we’ll recalibrate and see what the model is for providing medical care, how much of it comes through Kaiser, how much of it comes through HMSA, or private providers.

NE: We have good transportation, ambulances are able to get back and forth to central Maui. We have gasoline right now in one gas station. Our communications are still not perfect, cells go in and out. The texts work fine. Internet is very sketchy and is dependent on StarLink at this point. They’re working as hard as they can to fix the pipe with cable.

NE: We do have power at the resort and the homes, which is tremendously helpful. The community has come together. I have to say it’s been absolutely remarkable to see the canoe clubs, the churches, all members of the community marshaling food, clothing, housing resources. The parking lots and the shopping centers are becoming gathering places and there’s music and it’s Hawaiian style.

NE: And I think that’s definitely a way in which not only the West Maui community, the entire Maui community and the Hawaiian community is giving so much. We have planes flying in and out of Kapalua every 5 minutes, bringing things from central Maui. We have the local boat operators here driving things from Maalaea, clear around to Wharf. It’s being set up in Kahana.

NE: So far we’ve had no challenges from the weather. We’ve had excellent cooperation from municipal services like the police. The police have set up a health center at the Civic Center in West Maui that’s operational and taking care of a lot of people, those who are underserved. And we’re moving forward. I think we’re looking in the windshield as opposed to the rearview mirror.

NE: I can’t tell you what the medical layout is going to be three months from now. I can’t tell you what the housing layout is going to be three months ago, but we’ve got support from the government. There is programs to ease moves out of the hotels and all the general managers have been absolutely fabulous, as have the hotel owners. About helping evacuees being moved to the condos and other living situations and have lowered at least some of the stress levels.

NE: Food available in the mornings at the shop has offered either packaged or canned variety. The challenge will be allowing people who are still going to be in the hotels to somehow cook. They probably can’t cook in the rooms, so that’s why we’re trying to find them housing all over West Maui.

BS: Norm, you’re right about so many things now. We were kind of going over some of those ourselves, what’s what’s been happening with the hotels and how fabulous they’ve been to their employees and now taking in the public. I mean, that was great yesterday when we all had some of the information. We were all trying to spread it around as best we could, how people can actually get into a room, the Hyatt really stepped up suddenly and was taking almost anyone.

BS: I think that’s unbelievable and unfathomable.

RS: Yeah. And also, Norm…

NE: It’s been great. All the general managers, you know Gretchen at the Hyatt, Tets Yamazaki the Sheraton, Andrew Rogers at the Ritz-Carlton, they’ve all been fabulous. They’ve set up communication centers for people so that they can have access to phones. They’ve created their food and clothing line and they’ve been terrific.

BS: Andrew at the Ritz, he was amazing. He was one of the first, I think.

RS: It’s been fantastic.

BS: Unbelievable.

RS: What a group effort. And I understand…

NE: But I think everybody’s come together. I know every organization. I know the Realtors at Coldwell Banker have come together. I hear from a lot of different groups. Rotaries has a major effort. Obviously, the churches, many of whom got lost.

BS: Maui Prep really did a major thing up there at the school bringing people by. Ray Chin was one of the best people in the world on all of that. Everybody has been doing whatever they can do. A number of us had to drive back the back road and hopefully we’re not going to end up doing that again.

BS: That was really a nightmare. Now that we can do the other way, it’s perfect.

NE: Yeah, I agree. I think a lot of people ask what can I do, in terms of donation. There are many ways to donate, but most effective and efficient well established HawaiiCommunityFoundation.org. They’re very well-run. They’re based in Honolulu and they’ve already made major distributions to all these groups in West Maui. That’s HawaiiCommunityFoundation.org.

BS: We’ve given most of those out already.

RS: We mentioned that Norm and the Hawaii Community Foundation also has a Maui Strong Fund.

NE: Correct.

BS: Which is a place to direct it.

RS: And I understand you’re also part of a coalition of medical personnel, including West Lowe from Hale Makua, who’s kind of leading the charge for medical attention on the West side. And thank you for being part of that.

NE: Absolutely. We have everybody. We’ve got West Lowe. We’ve got Mike Shea, the medical director of the hospital. We’ve got Kaiser Permanente. We have pharmacies stepping up. Times is saying, what can we do? Walgreens is saying, what can we do? Dr. on Call will kind of be the point area for a while because of having an intact facility.

NE: So we’re coordinating trying to figure out who’s going to do what. There’s obviously going to be a massive level of support needed from civic and governmental agencies.

BS: Absolutely.

NE: But right now, the needs are being met and it’s been a fantastic effort.

BS: And we’re now hitting like the two minute warning or we’re close to it. So I think we’ll go ahead and wind down now. But thank you, Norm, for getting all that information to us. I think anybody that’s been listening will have some idea that there is support. There is a way to get medical, there is a way to get food, there’s a way to get what you need by asking for it, being a little bit patient because it’s going to be so hard, but it’s happening.

RS: Aloha practice.

BS: Practice Aloha. So we will see you later, I hope, Norm. Somewhere on the West side?

NE: Thank you so much for your time, warm aloha to all the listeners.

BS: Thank you so much.

RS: Thank you very much.

BS: So now I think we truly are around the two minute warning here. So, whatever we can think of now that we could say that would help someone.

RS: You know, what’s was left a lasting impression with me. They were interviewing on the radio three or four days ago, one of the volunteers that one of our distribution centers, I think it was something up towards Lahainaluna, but they were talking to a gentleman who had lost his home in a fire .

BS: Yes.

RS: And he was up there handing out water and food and clothing and so forth to people who needed it. He had one statement that made a lasting impression on me. He says, I don’t have a house, but I have a home.

RS: Think about that. You know, he doesn’t have a house, but he’s got a home. Lahaina is home. And that made a lasting impression on me. And what a statement. I don’t have a house, but I have a home.

BS: Roy grew up 463 Lahainaluna Road and in one minute I can tell you that for some reason, the person that bought it wanted to take out a Plumeria tree that was there. We moved it and we have it now some place where we live. It’s so spectacular.

RS: The house is gone, but the tree lives on.

BS: The tree lives on and it’s really spectacular. Thank you, Danny Couch, for always being with us. Week after week after week.

BS: Aloha.

RS: Practice Aloha.

BS: Practice Aloha.