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Healing begins, community gathers after another evacuation in Maui

Aug 27, 2023, 10:06 PM | Updated: 10:22 pm

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Hawaii’s Governor Josh Green lifted the evacuation order after another fire threatened families in Maui.

On Saturday, the brush fire near the Anapui neighborhood displaced members of the Lahaina First Ward, who had homes minutes away from the flames.

Ciera Leavitt’s home was evacuated. She said everything went right during this fire: the town sirens went off, and texts were sent, warning her and her community of the danger.

The messaging made all the difference when it came to getting out in time.

“This fire was five minutes up the road. You could see smoke,” Leavitt said. “The Lahaina Fire was 10 minutes away from our house.”

Green lifted the evacuation order later that evening, cautioning residents to watch for emergency responders still working. Once back home, Leavitt said she was able to turn her focus to more long-term problems her community is facing.

“What happens in a month when everyone that’s in the hotels for their 45 days gets kicked out?” Leavitt asked. “What are you going to need when Christmas comes?”

One of those needs is figuring out how to get their kids to school after one building burns down and the other remains damaged in the fire zone. Leavitt said they’re planning a supply drive for next Saturday to help the around 3,000 students who need school supplies.

When KSL spoke with Leavitt nearly three weeks ago, she had raised $150,000 within days – she now has close to $250,000.

Members of Lahaina church ward gather $150K in donations, fly supplies to West Maui

“Those money donations and focusing on individual families is huge right now,” she said.

The roads were closed, so Leavitt found a private plane and boats to send supplies to families. Now, the roads are back open, and Leavitt said they’re creating community gatherings for families to find some fun while getting supplies – their first gathering at DT Flemming Beach was Saturday.

“It just felt like so normal to finally be together and just to talk with each other or each other or cry,” she said.

Cell phone video shows kids playing in the ocean, the sound of laughter not quite drowned out by the ocean waves. Behind them, clothes hung between trees for parents to pick up – this is what healing looks like.

Community members gathered at the beach. (Courtesy: Ciera Leavitt) Community members gathered at the beach. (Courtesy: Ciera Leavitt) Community members gathered at the beach. (Courtesy: Ciera Leavitt)

“It works out through strength,” Leavitt said. “Community and strength in numbers. We’re going to get through it.”

Leavitt takes donations through her Venmo account @Preston-Ciera-Leavitt.*

*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.


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Healing begins, community gathers after another evacuation in Maui