In August 2023, a deadly, out-of-control wildfire wreaked havoc and destruction on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Fanned by strong and powerful winds, the blaze scorched the historic oceanfront town of Lahaina, reducing the picturesque place to a sea of rubble and ruins. The fire claimed the lives of nearly 100 people, while destroying thousands of homes and hundreds of businesses. 
Following the fire, Baptists on Mission disaster response volunteers from North Carolina traveled to Maui to assist residents as they returned to their property. For many returning homeowners, it marked the first time they had witnessed the devastation firsthand while coming to grips with losing everything they owned.
One of the ways volunteers served residents of Lahaina was by helping them sift through ash and debris in hopes of finding any personal items or valuables that might have survived the fire.
As fire rushed down the mountainside toward the picturesque town of Lahaina on the northwest coast of the Hawaiian island of Maui, Linda Rickabaugh knew she only had a few minutes to evacuate.
“We watched it come down the hill,” recalled Rickabaugh, when a series of wind-driven wildfires wreaked havoc and destruction across the Hawaiian islands. “It was moving about one mile a minute. I looked down Front Street, and it was covered in smoke. Then we smelled the smoke which means the wind had changed direction so we knew it was coming at us.”
As she drove away from her home just a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, Rickabaugh saw the flames in her rearview mirror and feared the inevitable. Along the way out of town, Linda stopped to pick up people on the side of the road whose homes and cars had already been destroyed and were trying to escape by foot.
“We thought we’d be back in three days to clean up the mess,” Rickabaugh said. “As it turns out, we saw footage from a helicopter that flew down the neighborhood showing the devastation. That’s when we knew we weren't coming back. That was the tough part, knowing you can't come back. But we're back today, three months later, going through the ashes, looking for valuables.”​​​​​​​
Volunteers worked with Rickabaugh and other displaced homeowners by sifting through piles of ash and debris helping them search for any personal items that might have survived the fire. Although a day of searching failed to unearth any valuables or mementos, it provided Rickabaugh with some comfort in what will be a long healing process.
“Now that I’ve seen it, now I've gone through it, I realize there's not that much here so I can move on.”
Back to Top