Maui Fire Disaster, Reopening & Discussing How to Move Forward - Sakamoto Properties

Maui Fire Disaster, Reopening & Discussing How to Move Forward

Home » Betty’s Hawaii Real Estate Corner » Maui Fire Disaster, Reopening & Discussing How to Move Forward
September 7, 2023
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Betty Sakamoto: Aloha and welcome to Betty’s Real Estate Corner, brought to you by Sakamoto Properties, Coldwell Banker, Roy and Betty Sakamoto. I find almost anything brings me to tears these days. And of course, Danny Couch could do that any way with I love Hawaii. I love Hawaii. I love Lahaina. I love Maui.

Roy Sakamoto: You’ve got your Lahainaluna shirt on.

BS: I’m wearing Lahainaluna. Yeah. Which on the back of the shirt for anyone that checks us later. The words to the alma mater. Speaking of which, let’s hear the alma mater, Football story. Very great story.

RS: Yeah. Last Friday, when Kamehameha Maui and Baldwin High School had their first season opening football game up a Kamehameha Maui, both teams gathered on the field before the start of the game. Traditionally, each school will sing their alma mater before a football game. Both schools got together, they sang the Lahainaluna alma mater.

BS: In Hawaiian.

RS: Yeah.

BS: Totally, the way Lahainaluna would do it.

RS: I mean, it’s a real chicken skin moment. The Kamehameha Maui football team, a lot of the boys wore red socks in honor of Lahainaluna. A lot of the people in the audience, wore red in honor of Lahaina.

BS: Red Shirts, at least.

RS: Yeah and it shows how Maui is a small village, but we come together in times of the line of fire. We are a small community and it’s great.

BS: We are. I mean, it is a small community. It’s all great. Tt’s amazing how everyone has come together. It’s unbelievable that people are pulling together. They’re living different places. We met some people that are living at Pineapple Hill right now. I think it’s okay to say their name, don’t you? The Neesman family?

RS: Yeah, sure.

BS: And it turns out that we all know the same people, but they were walking their two dogs. One of the dogs was a little unhappy to see me in his territory. But people have been allowed to come and stay or they’re renting. I’m not sure exactly how it’s all working, but I think people are really happy with that part of it.

RS: Well a lot of our second home owners who live on the mainland or Asia or Europe or wherever have opened their homes up to our local citizens. There are quite a few where we live, second home owners. We’re seeing a lot of local families that are walking around with their children, with their pets. It’s great.

RS: It’s a wonderful thing. Maui being a small community and it’s great that these homeowners who aren’t here on island full time will open up their homes to let our displaced residents occupy their homes. It’s fantastic.

BS: Like you said, with their kids, their dogs, their cats, there’s a lot of animals.

RS: Turtles, birds.

BS: Turtles, birds. Yeah. It’s really it’s amazing to just see people, even Maui Prep now is using the pool at Pineapple Hill, which is not an actual Olympic size pool.

RS: Not regulation size.

BS: But the pool in Lahaina can’t be used.

RS: Right.

BS: So the kids are able to come there and swim and stay in shape for their meets, etc..

RS: No, again, yeah, everybody’s doing whatever they can to help ease the situation. It’s tough, every time you see one of the displaced families, it’s just breaks your heart. Lahaina Strong is strong, Lahaina will be stronger. We will rebuild and that’s the future of Lahaina. So many of us are working towards rebuilding Lahaina and hopefully we rebuild it with the same taste of history that we all recognize and know.

RS: So we’re working on those items.

BS: I think a lot of people are working toward that plan. Even just picturing Front Street. Front Street will come back and it will come back somewhat like it is. I think it will also come back stronger because I think it will be built stronger and hopefully everybody will kind of go with that or they find a way to make that happen because this hopefully will never happen again.

BS: I do think that it was just one of those things. Everybody wants to blame somebody. You want to blame the county or the state or the whoever you can come up with, because sadly, it never should have happened. But it happened and I think it happened as a combination of things that all came together.

BS: But I just don’t think there is blame. It’s not worth it. I think we’ve got to be happy.

RS: Yeah, there’s a lot of finger pointing going on, but we’ve got to move on and we’ve got to get back to our normal lives, as normal as we can make them. The kids have to get back to school. The hotels, the condominiums, the restaurants, the shops, whatever is not damaged or destroyed, have to reopen.

RS: We have to get some normalcy back in our lives. So, gradually, we’ve seen more and more restaurants starting to open. Perhaps not full on service as we know it. Just to name a few, we’ve gone to like in West Maui, Java Jazz, has breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s in the Times Market Shopping Center.

RS: The Pour House restaurant at Kapalua just reopened. I understand Seahouse in Napili Kai will be opening next week. So, more and more people, we’ve got to get back to having jobs and having customers.

BS: You know Roy, you gave me this morning some of the information that was that I think came out of CNN. I’m not sure exactly where it came from. But, like I was saying a minute ago, we can’t blame anybody. But what they’re saying is the islands were not under hurricane warnings. Still, the storms result in low pressure paired with high pressure to the north, created strong winds that would fuel the destruction.

BS: I mean, I’m not sure that there was a way that anybody could have figured out ahead of time. Let’s save us from this. I just don’t think that was possible.

RS: No, it was pretty freaky. A hurricane four or 500 miles south of Hawaii, and this high pressure area, I’m not sure how far north of Hawaii it was. Maui was right in the crosshairs and Lahaina on Maui. It could have been anywhere in Hawaii. It could have been in central Maui.

RS: It could have been on the big island. It could have been on Oahu. But Maui, Lahaina Maui was was the target and that’s where all hell broke loose.

BS: 2200 buildings were damaged in Lahaina alone. 2200. I mean, it’s hard to even possibly envision that. 2200. I think another thing that throws people off is when I first heard that, there’s not 2200 buildings on Front Street. I mean, what are we talking about? Well, we’re talking about Front Street, but we’re talking when you come back from there, there’s the Safeway shopping center and then to the north of that, there’s a huge area that is residential and that really got beat up bad.

BS: I mean, most of that went down. All the houses in Lahaina pretty much went down.

RS: Pretty much everything.

BS: Pretty much everything.

RS: You know, that timeline is kind of interesting. Again, this is CNN’s timeline. But starting on Tuesday, August 8th at 12 a.m., there was a brush fire. This is upcountry and it covered about eventually about a thousand acres. I think there was a little bit more. But at that time, at least 50 people take cover at an emergency shelter.

BS: At 6 a.m. Still, 6:40 am, something like that. On that same timeline as the upcountry fires are raging, showing on the map, hotspots, etc., smaller brush fire fueled by strong winds from Hurricane Dora, D-O-R-A, near a Lahaina school, prompted evacuations. Fire officials declared it 100% contained just before 9 a.m., but the early fire doesn’t yet register on satellite. So again, I just don’t see that anybody can make a blame game out of this.

RS: No, no. And then again, following the CNN timeline at 9:26 a.m., National Weather Service in Honolulu issued a red flag and high wind warning as the fire threat increases. So that didn’t come till 9:26am.

BS: The next one seems to be 3:30 p.m.. A Lahaina fire flare up prompts evacuation, road closure and a shelter in place advisory on West Maui. The shelter in place was overall for West Maui. Don’t leave your houses now. Meaning, let’s say if you’re at Kapalua, don’t drive down here to see what’s happening.

RS: Or if you’re in Lahaina.

BS: Or if you’re in Lahaina.

RS: Stay there.

BS: Well, stay there. Or at that point, I would say shelter in place wasn’t the best, but I think people started getting out of there pretty quickly after that.

RS: Yeah, at 3:43 p.m.. Lieutenant Governor Sylvia Luke, who was acting as the governor with our governor, traveling, she issued an emergency proclamation to activate assistance from the state’s National Guard. That was at 3:43 p.m.

BS: Now, again, following this, it might be a little boring as you’re listening and most of us in Lahaina have read this at some point. But evacuations at 4:45 p.m. continued for several Lahaina neighborhoods after an earlier flare up closes the Lahaina bypass. You know, so again now you’ve got the bypass closed, which is going to make it even harder to move around.

RS: Yeah and then all hell broke loose after that with, basically downtown Lahaina, the surrounding homes, businesses and so forth, catching fire, people leaving in whatever way they could, some on foot, some on bicycles, some in cars, some jumping into the ocean just to get away from the fire, which spread. I mean, the winds were blowing, I understand, like 60, 70 miles an hour.

RS: Incredible that actually there aren’t more casualties from those.

BS: I think you’re right. I mean, I think if anything, the miracle is that there were probably fewer casualties than there could have been. I still think the number of residents that have died is going to go up as they continue to search and figure things out. But I think that it’s going to be a very difficult process to locate and know for sure exactly what happened at any given place except by maybe earlier phone calls, text messaging, etc.. But I think the number is more than we think. But again, if we now just go to today.

RS: No, you know, one more thing.

BS: Okay, go ahead.

RS: Just at 11:52 p.m., this is still on Tuesday evening. The Hawaii National Guard deploys on Maui. So just before midnight is when the National Guard started deploying on Maui. This is on that Tuesday night, the night of the fire.

BS: I mean, again, we’re looking at something right now that was sent to us, and as we go along, you can see cars stuck. Different people, fire surrounding, trapped in vehicles.

RS: I’m sure we’ve all seen on the news and the various clips, maybe Facebook or whatever film and photos of the fire that was just totally horrible. It was heart wrenching and horrible.

BS: By the end of this, nobody had power in West Maui. In Kapalua, it took us days to actually get power back. So maybe three days, four days. It really is amazing how dark it is. You have to prepare to go to bed because you may as well go to bed early because it is pitch dark.

BS: We had a lot of candles that we could, light up on our stairs, etc.. But I mean, once it was dark, it was depressing you at that point. I mean, it got really difficult and you didn’t really know at that point what had happened.

RS: No, we had no television. We don’t have a portable radio. So we had no idea.

BS: We have one now.

RS: Yes.

BS: Yes, we do.

RS: We had no idea the extent of damage that was happening in Lahaina. At night we could see the red glow and it didn’t look good, but we had no idea as far as the extent of damage. I’m sure everybody here on Maui, knows someone that perished in the fire or is aware of someone close to them that perished in the fire.

RS: And it’s very sad. We lost a very good friend. Buddy who was a musician, played all over Maui. Used to play with a good friend of ours.

BS: Sonny Knight.

RS: Yeah, and Sonny passed away a few years ago.

BS: That was late seventies, I think, or early eighties.

RS: We’d run into Buddy every now and then, usually around the post office or one of the shopping centers.

BS: The Napili market.

RS: Yeah.

BS: I would see Buddy still.

RS: And give a big hug and, “hey, how you doing, brah?”, and all that. Buddy always had a great smile, played a hell of a guitar, played a hell of a ukulele. Buddy was one of the unfortunate few who passed away in the fire. Knowing Buddy, he was probably trying to do something heroic, trying to help someone, that was his nature.

RS: Whether he was trying to help someone else get out of his apartment building or whatever. Buddy didn’t make it, and we are extremely sad and our hearts go out to Buddy’s family, his friends. Buddy, Ahui Hou, take care. I know you’re playing your music up there.

BS: Well, I’d said the same thing, and buddy, thanks for being a very special friend of mine. Any time I saw him, I felt better. It’s hard to even explain it, but you just see him and, you’d start talking about old times. When we were all hanging out at different places and etc.. We don’t hang out so much over anywhere anymore.

RS: No, we don’t.

BS: It was a great time when we used to be different places and spending time. Buddy was amazing. I’ve just got to say, he’s one of those people in the world that always made me feel a little prettier. A little special, a little perfect. I’ll always miss Buddy.

RS: Oh, totally. Absolutely. We had no idea that Buddy had, passed during the fire. But as the names are slowly appearing, the casualties for the fire, it kind of hit us, right in our hearts.

BS: It’s a tragedy. You know, the other thing that I think I’d like to talk about for just a minute and I’m so on this that it might drive Roy crazy. Roy grew up at four six three Lahainaluna road and the house that was there, he can correct me every time I say something that’s wrong because I do that, because I don’t really know everything on it, but the house was moved there, like in 1941, 1942?.

RS: 1942.

BS: 1942. It was moved there. Roy was just a baby. So it wasn’t a brand new house ever and later Roy grew up there. His parents were here. I mean, it was the greatest house. It was a happy house. There was everything about it that was super. In the backyard, Roy and his dad, had grafted two additional colors of plumeria on the tree. So that it had white plumeria, yellow plumeria and pink.

BS: They kind of bloom, I think, a little bit separate.

RS: They used to, right.

BS: They used to. So Roy’s mom passed away fairly young and then his dad was with us, fortunately for a long time, he had a lot of grandpa duties left to do, and he did them spectacularly. He took my little girl who was by then starting high school, and he took care of her.

BS: I mean, she was the grandchild and residence. He would pick her up, take her places, do whatever. But meanwhile in the yard, Roy’s grafted the tree and there’s three different plumeria on it. We sell the house to David Friedman, who happened to have been a mortgage broker, still here. He was living there when the house burned down.

BS: You know, so we’ve all talked since then, but when he first purchased it and I’m sorry, I’m making the story so long, when he first purchased it, he decided pretty quickly that he was going to take the tree out because it took up so much room. So he called us, was going to take it down eventually through a lot of planning, Chris Yadao, our landscaper, figured that he could move the tree for us, but he’d have to cut it down because it was a really a big tree.

BS: So meanwhile we get the tree. We got our landscaper to go. He cuts it down, he gets the bulb out, which weighed over 1,000lbs and we moved it and we put it at the house that we had purchased at Pineapple Hill. It’s there today. It’s big, it’s spectacular. After I heard this, it was like I hadn’t glanced at it for a bit and then went outside because I wanted to be sure it was all okay.

BS: It’s huge. I mean, the the blooms are there.

RS: It’s in full bloom now. Just the whites are out, full bloom.

BS: Just white, yeah you’re right. just white. But it’s a little piece of Lahaina that’s come to Kapalua, and it means so much to us, right now. And David is really happy because he’s going to rebuild his house in Lahaina at four, six, three. And when he does it, he wants to come and get some clippings from the trees so that the tree can go back home. But it’s spectacular.

RS: It is. But, again, we’ve got to move forward. To those who may be listening on the radio or know who some of these people that are displaced, there is an FHA program, it’s a FHA 203 something. There’s a letter A or H or something. Anyway, an FHA 203 program where those displaced by the fire, if you’ve lost your house due to the fire, there’s a 0% down financing available through this FHA program.

RS: If you’re buying another property. So if you’re buying another house, and it doesn’t have to be in Lahaina, it could be in Kihei, could be upcountry, it could be wherever. If you were displaced by the fire, you can take advantage of this FHA program to purchase something. Another house, zero money down. We’d love to help you or point you in the right direction, so call myself Roy at 8088707060 or Betty at 8088707062.

RS: Or look us up at

BS: Or talk to your realtor. I mean a lot of people have someone they’ve worked with off and on. We’re right now coming up to the half minute warning I think, and Danny Couch will be back. But let’s listen to I love Hawaii for just a minute because that’s the reality. We love Hawaii. We’re not going anywhere, ever.

RS: We all love Hawaii.

BS: We love Hawaii.

RS: We love Lahaina.

BS: Lahaina Strong.

RS: Aloha.

BS: Lahaina Strong.