“They are still looking for their loved ones”: residents of the New York state of Maui describe the aftermath of the wildfires

BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) — Rescue and recovery efforts continue on Maui, nearly a week after wildfires ravaged the historic town of Lahaina, killing people and destroying property.

Sierra Breithaupt moved from Buffalo to Lahaina. Her house, everything in it and her shop burned to the ground during the forest fires.

Breithaupt’s best friend, Chantal Elliott from Buffalo, keeps in touch with her as best she can.

“She’s the kind of person who would take your shirt off in the blink of an eye without asking any questions, and they just lost everything,” Elliott said. “They didn’t even have time to find one of their cats. They just grabbed things and left.”

Elliott set one up GoFundMe page for Breithaupt and her family. They’re trying to raise $20,000. The funds will be used to buy water, food and basic needs.

“To help them regain their sense of home, to help them rebuild their businesses,” she said. “They lost a full retail store and kiosk and just want to help rebuild the community. There are many locals who have always been there and don’t have the outside resources that we have.”

News 4 spoke briefly to Breithaupt. She says she’s still in shock and still searching for her cat and missing friends. She tells News 4 that she is grateful for the support.

Michelle Mueller moved to Maui a few weeks ago to work as an ESL teacher. She is safe and the school where she teaches was spared the fire. This school is now preparing to take in at least 200 children from other schools that were burned down.

“It was just incredible. I was very thankful that I was okay, that the school was okay, that most of the kids at school were okay, but it affected everyone,” said Mueller, who is originally from Niagara Falls. “People know people who have lost their homes, people who have lost their lives, people know people who have lost their jobs.”

Mueller says the effects of the wildfire were heartbreaking and people were still waiting to know if loved ones were okay.

“A lot of people have hope. They are still searching for loved ones, but it is uncertain how many lost their lives. The locals have spoken and they are thinking [death] “The number is much higher than reported,” Mueller said. “FEMA and the National Guard, Police and Fire Departments are attempting to provide a confirmed number, which is not an estimate at this time. So I expect the number will increase in the next few days, but we still don’t know what that number is.”

In recent days, Mueller has been volunteering and helping distribute food and relief supplies to people in need.

“We’re all trying to help, and it’s been a massive grassroots initiative to help people relocate and resettle and support them in any way we can,” Mueller said.

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Sarah Minkewicz is an Emmy-nominated reporter from Buffalo news 4 Team since 2019. Follow Sarah on Twitter @SarahMinkewicz and click here to see more of her work.

Tom Vazquez

Tom Vazquez is a USTimeToday U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Tom Vazquez joined USTimeToday in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with Tom Vazquez by emailing tomvazquez@ustimetoday.com.

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