Paradise lost: A firsthand account of seeing historic Lahaina devastated by Maui wildfires

David Ono Image
Tuesday, August 15, 2023
A firsthand account of Maui's devastation
ABC7's David Ono was on vacation with his family in Hawaii when the wildfire broke out on Maui. Here's what he saw.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- It's impossible to fully understand how quickly a disaster can strike.

The fortunes of the Lahaina community on Maui turned in mere minutes.

I know because I was there, on vacation with my family when this paradise was so suddenly and catastrophically lost.

Fueled by powerful winds, the flames would eventually devastate the town of Lahaina and kill nearly 100 people.

That Tuesday, we were outside as we noticed the fierce winds blowing over the island. This was before the fire broke out.

My daughter and her cousin were fascinated with nature's power.

It was innocent fun until, just a few hours later, we saw the smoke appear on the horizon.

The plume grew to enormous proportions in just minutes.

As we've learned in California, high winds and fire are a deadly mix.

The fire started in the hills, and the winds carried it with lightning speed down toward the ocean and historic downtown Lahaina.

The next morning, Wednesday, when I heard of the devastation, I immediately packed a backpack and started walking toward the disaster zone.

At the time, I was the only person in some areas surveying the damage just hours after the flames were out.

For the next seven hours and 14 miles I found stunning scenes.

Entire blocks of homes lost.

When I entered the actual area of downtown Lahaina, the magnitude of the disaster became apparent.

I've traveled along Front Street many times over the years visiting as a tourist. On a normal day it's clogged with cars and traffic is barely moving.

After the fire ravaged the town, burned-out shells of cars remained in a line on the street.

It's obvious what happened here: There was gridlock. As the ruthless flames descended, people had no choice but to abandon their vehicles and jump over the wall into the ocean.

All of historic Lahaina is gone.

If you would like to help people impacted by the Maui wildfires, go to ABC's Red Cross page here.