College student from Lahaina studying in SoCal weighs future after wildfires destroy her home

David González Image
Monday, August 21, 2023
SoCal student from Lahaina weighs future after deadly Maui fires
Keeana Villamar said she lost contact with her loved ones shortly after the fires started ripping through parts of the island. Now, she's not sure what she's going to do next.

CLAREMONT, Calif. (KABC) -- Keeana Villamar is set to start her junior year at Scripps College at the Claremont Colleges in less than two weeks but her heart is back home in Hawaii.

"Although I do really value my education, my family comes before anything," Villamar said.

Villamar was born and raised in the town of Lahaina. Her beloved home where she made countless memories was mostly destroyed during the devastating wildfires that ravaged Maui last week.

"It just breaks my heart because everyone is so tied to the land," Villamar said. "The land is what gives them the resources and motivation to keep going every single day."

She said she lost contact with her loved ones shortly after the fires started ripping through parts of the island.

"Those first 48 hours for me were just honestly the worst I've ever felt. I was just sick," Villamar said.

Her mentor at school, Dr. Susan Warren, happened to be on Maui when the fires started.

"So I asked if she was ok and if she was nearby if she could please check in on my family to see if they were even alive," said Villamar.

Warren was eager to help.

"When I got that text from Keeana, I was so sad and I told my husband, I said, 'We have to do whatever we can to try to gather some food and water food them,'" she said

Warren was able to gather some supplies and was able to locate Villamar's family.

"When Keeana's mom hugged me and I said, 'This hug is going to go back to California to Keeana,' that was one of the special moments of my life," Warren said.

At that moment, Villamar knew she was blessed to have someone like Warren in her life.

"When Dr. Warren was able to share with me the photo of my family, I was at work and I just started bawling my eyes out because I wasn't able to get ahold of them," she said.

She now has some peace of mind knowing her family is safe and hopes to reunite with them sooner than later.

"Just pictures and memories of them are what's keeping me going," Villamar said.

The new school year is set to start on Aug. 28.

Right now, Villamar is not sure if she will be here for the start of her classes or back in Hawaii with her family.

In the meantime, she's set up a GoFundMe page to help her and her family.