As the residents of Maui begin the painful process of mourning the recent wildfires, they also take time out to honor those who became heroes in the midst of the danger. The raging blazes devastated prominent areas of Maui, such as Honokohau Valley, Lahaina, and Kona, claiming the lives of 31 people in total, including 27 Maui residents.
Upon initial fear of the fires escalating out of control, dozens of Maui residents leaped into action, doing whatever it took to protect and save their friends and family. Among these brave souls is 28-year-old Pa’ele Kiakona, who traveled a whopping 13 miles on foot through a smoke-filled hellscape in an attempt to rescue his beloved grandmother.
Today we honor 28-year-old Pa’ele Kiakona of Lahaina. This is what a #Hero looks like!!!
By the time he reached her house, it had burned, but thanks to his journey and a dirt bike ride from one of his cousins, Kiakona and his grandmother made it out of the blazes alive. pic.twitter.com/FKRoqVTzW6
— Brandon James (@IAMAVANGUARDIAN) August 25, 2023
Mr. Kiakona recalled his efforts: “I was going as fast as I could, but the fire was coming really fast. I almost fell over multiple times—the wind was just crazy. There were points where I felt I would give up, like I couldn’t make it. But I felt as if God had his hand on my shoulder, pushing me, helping me.”
He eventually made it to his grandmother’s house, warning her that it was time to evacuate, and he was able to get her safely to the car with only 30 minutes to spare. He remembered thinking in those moments that made him realize how close to danger they were: “There was smoke in all directions—it was like something you’d see in a movie.”
Pa’ele Kiakona was only one among many heroes of the fire-torn Maui towns. It is these monumental acts of bravery that, in a moment of such loss, give some comfort and strengthen those in the area attempting to make sense of the tragedy.
Despite claims by Governor David Ige of Hawaii that the fires may have had something to do with climate change, final investigations have come out with no conclusion on the true cause. Nevertheless, the Hawaiian officials stand prepared to assist those affected by the blazes, encouraging those seeking donations to three transmit donations to nonprofits; the Red Cross Honolulu, the Maui Food Bank, and the Pacific Disaster Center.
Even as they grieve, the Maui residents can find solace in the courage of those who risked their lives to save others. And as they rebuild their homes, and come together as a community to pick up the pieces, they can be sure to remember those who rose to the occasion and triumphed in the face of danger. As Governor Ige says: “In the midst of this sorrow and heartache we are reminded of the courage of Maui’s residents, and the heroes who rose to the occasion. We will be forever grateful for the courage and compassion of those who risked so much to save their friends, family, and neighbors.”