Maui residents return to Wrightsville Beach after losing everything

Published: Aug. 15, 2023 at 9:53 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The Lahaina wildfire in Hawaii is now the deadliest wildfire to happen in the US in more than a century.

Countless lives have been changed forever, with thousands of those lucky to escape now in shelters as their homes have been leveled.

That’s the story of two people from Wrightsville Beach, who lost everything in the wildfire.

Maggie Venters was on the island at the time of the fire, while her cousin Carlee Venters was traveling when their home was destroyed.

“When we saw each other, we just gave each other a huge hug and cried it out. We’ve just made so many memories together and that’s what’s hard to think about. We can’t make any more memories at that special place,” said Carlee.

The cousins are shocked that their favorite place on earth can no longer be called home.

“I didn’t realize like the next morning that I was going to wake up to literally the entire town of Lahaina just completely gone,” said Carlee.

With so much death and destruction, Carlee is thankful for life, her neighbors, and that of her cat Fonzi. She says her friends put their lives on the line to save Fonzi from the burning house.

“There were power lines down, there were flames everywhere and there was a power line blocking my neighborhood. My friend said she literally almost got out of her car and ran to my house just to get my cat out because it was coming in so fast. Then she said, I have your cat, we just left your house and we barely made it out,” Carlee explained.

She says there’s one thing she wants to get across to people who might be thinking about traveling to Maui anytime soon...

“If you could not travel to Maui, and if you’re on Maui please consider cutting your vacation short. This is a disaster that has happened and these people need the resources, the hotel rooms, the toilet paper, the gas. They need everything right now.”

It’s that togetherness and that community bond that Carlee says will help Lahaina rebuild, despite this unthinkable tragedy.

“It’s just amazing how much everyone has lost everything. But they’re literally coming together to help other people, which is amazing and that’s aloha. That’s the spirit of aloha,” said Carlee.

You can make a difference and help survivors in Hawaii recover and rebuild. Join Gray Television and WECT and give Hope for Hawaii. Just text “FIRERELIEF” to 51555.

There are also separate donation links where you can give money directly to the families themselves.