'We'll build better, bigger' - family vows to bounce back after Maui fires destroyed home

Josh Haskell Image
Monday, August 14, 2023
Maui family with SoCal roots vows to rebuild after fires
One Maui family with Southern California roots says they will stay in Lahaina and rebuild after wildfire destroyed their home.

WAILEA, Hawaii (KABC) -- The devastating wildfires on Maui created terrifying and chaotic moments for hundreds of families as they sought to flee flames that were rapidly advancing on their homes.

Mau and Ariel Ah Hee found themselves separated from each other for hours with no contact or updates to know if the other was OK.

As the wind-spread fires advanced last Tuesday, Mau evacuated the family's home on Lahaina with their two children.

Ariel, a nurse, was at work at the time and the two were separated, out of contact for a frantic 15 hours while the fire destroyed their home.

"People are stuck in traffic and their cars are burning down and I'm sitting there and I'm like, I have no idea where my family is," Ariel recalled. "I was up. I didn't go to sleep the whole night. I sat there refreshing (my phone). I called every five minutes."

The fire destroyed the home they had built with help from Habitat for Humanity.

Mau was born and raised in Lahaina and his family has roots that date back to before Hawaii was a state. Ariel's family has roots in Southern California. Her mother is from Orange County and her dad is from Manhattan Beach.

The family is reunited now and back together at Ariel's parents house in Paia.

The couple have lived and raised their family on Maui for over 30 years, but Southern California is their second home.

On Friday, Ariel, Mau and their two young sons were able to access the ruins of Lahaina and could not believe what they saw.

"We parked in our driveway. I ran out," Ariel said. "I was so flustered. I didn't have my boots on, I didn't have a mask on. I'm digging through our rubble to see if there's anything in our property.

"We had our neighbors next to me, my son's best friend. They're standing in our backyard looking at their old swing set. It's gone."

Ariel took a photo of her son, Manaiakalani, and his best friend comforting each other as they surveyed the devastation of their home and playground.

Lahaina is still the family's home. Not returning is not an option.

"We'll stick together," Mau said. "We'll be strong. We'll build better, bigger. It will never be the same. Hometown is gone."