In a breathtaking photo, the lone, 100-year-old wooden house on Front Street is seen unscathed alongside numerous other properties that have been turned to ash and rubble.
The photo has already achieved viral status on social media, with many calling the red-roofed residence a “miracle house.”
Homeowners Trip Millikin and Dora Atwater Millikin told the local outlet Honolulu Civil Beat they purchased the property in 2021.
The couple was in Massachusetts as wildfires began on Aug. 8. They assumed their home would be lost.
When a friend later showed the Millikins’ a photo of their house standing alone after the fire, surrounded by other not-so-lucky properties, their feelings were complicated.
“It looks like it was photoshopped in,” Trip told the Civil Beat. “We started crying. I felt guilty. We still feel guilty.”
The only visible damage the fire seemed to cause to their home was a few scorched patches of grass and bubbling paint on one wall, the Civil Beat reported.
After purchasing the property, the Millikin couple renovated the historic structure, which used to be a bookkeeper’s home for a nearby plantation. Alongside luck and potentially favorable winds, the renovations may be a key reason why the Front Street home is still standing, though none of the changes were made as a means of fire prevention.
With the help of local carpenters and construction workers, the homeowners trimmed trees on the property and installed a commercial-grade steel roof. Unlike shingles or asphalt roofing, the steel roof may have provided better protection from rogue embers. Trip told Civil Beat they also removed existing landscaping around the home and filled the dug-out areas with river stones. The stones were intended to prevent runoff and termite damage.
Despite their guilt, the Millikin couple intends to help others in the area who weren’t lucky enough to keep their homes. Though they will not return to Lahaina until they are certain they won’t take any much-needed resources from survivors, Trip and Dora said they want to use their property as “a base” for those who need it.
Search and recovery efforts are ongoing in Maui. The New York Times claimed at least 115 people have been reported dead, while over 1,000 others remain missing.
Much of the town of Lahaina was destroyed. The fires are considered the worst natural disaster in Hawaiian state history.