Plainview woman living in Hawaii loses home in wildfire

Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 6:32 PM CDT
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LAHAINA, Hawaii (KCBD) - In Hawaii, state and federal agencies are working desperately to find survivors from the wildfire that swept through Maui last week. Instead, they are only finding more bodies in the rubble.

A woman from Plainview moved to the city of Lahaina in 2017, not expecting she would lose everything only six years later.

“There was not one alarm that was able to be sounded to say evacuate,” Pat Munguia said.

Last Tuesday, a hurricane 800 miles off the coast of Maui blew strong winds onto the island Munguia calls home.

“After the fire started, the winds were, when I say 360 degrees, they were in every direction,” Munguia said.

It toppled power lines and tore away roofs from houses, fanning the flames as far as one mile every minute.

“The fire traveled so fast that all we could hear was the popping of the electrical transponders: boom, boom, boom,” Munguia said.

Munguia has dedicated her safe escape to her native Hawaiian neighbors.

“They said ‘we’re not playing around, it’s time to go; we’ve never seen this before, let’s get out of here,’” she said.

What they saw around them during their evacuation was like nothing they had ever experienced.

“I’m half a century old, I’ve experienced a lot in my life,” she said. “Devastation, death, heartbreak, heartache, I have never experienced something like this in my life.”

Lahaina residents were running for their lives, some even jumping into the ocean to escape the flames.

“The feeling of helplessness, the flames chasing us and not being able to help the people on foot, it was chaos,” she said.

Munguia worked overnights at the Historic Pioneer Inn, built in 1901. She often worked with the homeless population. Now, she her place of work is charred rubble, unable to provide shelter for the people without homes she used to help.

“And the fact that I don’t know where any of them are is more devastating to me, because they’re the unseen, the unheard, the people that nobody acknowledges,” she said.

Along with her workplace, Munguia’s own home now lies in ashes. While she said she has family she can return to here in Texas, others do not have that luxury.

“Hundreds of people that are local native to Hawaii and that have nowhere to go and are destitute,” she said.

Despite the losses, Munguia stated she will not leave until Lahaina is taken care of.

“I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to rebuild, but I know they need to heal, they need to be able to mourn,” she said.

These are things they cannot do until those who have died are uncovered and identified. Hawaii Governor Josh Green said this could take up to 10 days.

Munguia stated she was able to save some clothes and all her important personal documents because she had a “go-bag.” She stated everyone should have a go-bag in case of emergencies, like wildfires.

Once the damage is assessed and Lahaina has its time to mourn, Munguia said she is going to work on a donation drive to help people who are not as quick to get back on their feet.

FEMA is currently working in the historic community, the agency fears Lahaina, which once served as the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom, may remain inaccessible for weeks.

Those interested in helping Munguia and other Lahaina residents can click here.