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This photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources shows burnt areas in Lahaina on the Maui island, Hawaii, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023, following a wildfire. Photo Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources via AP

Survivors of the deadly Maui wildfires start returning to ruins. The death toll is likely to rise

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) -- Deadly wildfires that swept with alarming speed and strength through the Hawaiian island of Maui reduced hundreds of homes to ash, sending emergency workers scrambling Saturday to find temporary housing for those lucky enough to survive a conflagration that has taken at least 80 lives.
The astonishing scope of the devastation became clearer Saturday, but communications were still difficult, with 30 cell towers still offline. Power outages were expected to last several weeks on the western side of the island. Authorities, meanwhile, warned that the death toll could rise as search efforts continue.
Those who escaped were counting their blessings, thankful to be alive as they mourned those who didn’t make it.
Retired fire captain Geoff Bogar and his friend of 35 years, Franklin Trejos, initially stayed behind to help others in Lahaina and save Bogar’s house. But as the flames moved closer and closer Tuesday afternoon, they knew they had to get out. Each escaped to his own car. When Bogar’s wouldn’t start, he broke through a window to get out, then crawled on the ground until a police patrol found him and brought him to a hospital.
Trejos wasn’t as lucky. When Bogar returned the next day, he found the bones of his 68-year-old friend in the back seat of his car, lying on top of the remains of his beloved 3-year-old golden retriever Sam, whom he had tried to protect.
Trejos, a native of Costa Rica, had lived for years with Bogar and his wife, Shannon Weber-Bogar, helping her with her seizures when her husband couldn’t. He filled their lives with love and laughter.
“God took a really good man,” Weber-Bogar said.
Bill Wyland, who lives on the island of Oahu but owns an art gallery on Lahaina’s historic Front Street, fled on his Harley Davidson, whipping the motorcycle onto empty sidewalks Tuesday to avoid traffic-jammed roads as embers burned the hair off the back of his neck.
Riding in winds he estimated to be at least 70 miles per hour (112 kilometers per hour), he passed a man on a bicycle who was madly pedaling for his life.
“It’s something you’d see in a Twilight Zone, horror movie or something,” Wyland said.
Wyland, who noticed others stuck in traffic or leaping into the ocean to escape the flames, realised just how lucky he had been when he returned to downtown Lahaina on Thursday.
“It was devastating to see all the burned-out cars. There was nothing that was standing,” he said.
His gallery was destroyed, along with the works of 30 artists.

(Latest Update August 14, 2023)

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