Tim Larson spent 16 agonizing hours waiting for word on the status of his family living on the front line of Maui’s devastating wildfire this week.
Larson grew up in Lahaina in Maui but lives and works in Calgary. His wife is a flight attendant from the city. He works at YYC Calgary International Airport.
Their children are currently on Maui, spending the summer with their grandparents.
“I got a text at 4 a.m. from my son, who is 10, saying, ‘Dad, help, there is a fire,’” Larson said. “I immediately looked on Facebook to see what was happening. I called him immediately and tried to calm him down.”
Larson said his children were in an area outside of the fire zone. But his mom and grandmother and sisters were right in the middle of it, in Lahaina.
There is nothing left of their homes and all their belongings inside.
“The homes that we grew up in are completely demolished,” he said. “We pretty much had those houses through five generations of families that have all lived there.
“It’s very heartbreaking, especially seeing those memories disappear.”
Escape from Hawaii
Many tourists were still trying to escape the devastation on Friday.
Calgary’s Paul McGreevy and his family are finally on their way home after their flight was cancelled due to the fire.
“There’s a lot of tired faces … and there’s people who have been here for two days sleeping outside the airport in grassy areas, who have been given blankets and snacks. Rental car drop-off is mayhem. There are cars everywhere that aren’t even where they are supposed to be dropped off,” he said.
The McGreevys were on their way to have lunch in Lahaina on what was supposed to be their final day in Hawaii. They had been on another island and had no idea how severe the situation was on Maui.
“The ninth was my birthday, so when you wake up to an evacuation order, you’re thinking you are going to have one last day and go to this nice restaurant. And it was just madness,” he said.
“The things that you hear and the people that we have spoken to, it’s crazy. Absolutely crazy.”
McGreevy said he met an older couple who slept in a park because their hotel was in the fire zone.
The McGreevys feel exceptionally grateful that they got out of the area when they did, just hours before Lahaina was consumed by flames. They also managed to find accommodation by sheer luck after their flight home was cancelled.
McGreevy said it was just a small inconvenience for them, but their hearts are with the people who lost their homes and their loved ones.
“It’s really sad here,” said McGreevy. “But I’ve got to say the local municipal governments, the aid, the support — it’s so inspiring what they have done.
“The locals here have banded together. Their immediate reaction was: ‘Stop the fire, help the people.’ There’s no pity party, no ‘Woe is us’ — that’s what we’ve seen anyway.”
Larson’s colleagues in Calgary set up a GoFundMe page for his family in Hawaii. He is planning on heading there if he still can next week to get his children and help his devastated family.
While the house he grew up in is gone, he’s grateful the most important people who lived in it are still there.