Hawaiians who survived Lahaina’s deadly fires described an inferno that blackened the sky and laid waste to entire neighborhoods.
On Tuesday morning, an herbalist named Spice Prince was at his shop in Lahaina, Hawaii, preparing for the launch of a new perfume line, when gnarly winds started to topple trees and power lines in his neighborhood. After an exhausting few hours of damage control, he fell asleep on the floor with his dog. Then the smell of smoke woke him up.
Prince has lived on the island of Maui for thirty-five years, he said, since Lahaina had only one street light. He saw billowing dark clouds, but the power was out, so he couldn’t find out what was happening. He ran to Front Street, the main road, and was met with gridlock—no one was getting anywhere. He rushed back to get his computer, as the air started to darken. “It just started getting so black,” he told me. He knocked on his neighbor’s door, saying, “We’ve got to go!” But his neighbor had cats and didn’t want to leave. “He just shut the door in my face,” Prince recalled. Over the phone, I could hear him start to sob.
“I ran with my dog in my backpack, in my shorts and flip-flops,” Prince told me. The world was an inferno. “It wasn’t like a flame—it was just, like, dragon-breath orange.” He walked up a mountain road in the night, leaving behind all of his herbs, plants, elixirs, surfboards, and a collection of vintage hunting bows. “I’ve gathered medicines since I was six years old—I’ve lost it all,” he said. “It’s like I’m coming out of the womb, starting my life over with nothing.”
(from NewYorker.com and Michael Kelly, H.W.)