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The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

TXST freshman, mother lose home due to Maui fire

Photo Courtesy of Kathleen Machado
Photo of Machado’s and Gonzalez’s apartment complex after the Lahaina fire, Friday, Aug. 11, 2023 in Lahaina, Maui.

On August 8, Kathleen Machado had just returned from work to her apartment complex in Lahaina, Maui. Just a few minutes later, disaster struck as a wildfire made its way towards her place of living, forcing her to evacuate. Her daughter, Hana Gonzalez, an exercise and sports sciences freshman, was out of the state preparing to move to Texas State that following week.  

The Lahaina fire set ablaze on August 7 and has been ravaging the west side of the island ever since. Currently, over 100 people have died in the fire and search and rescue teams are still deploying to potentially find more people.  

“There was a hurricane south of us and we thought we didn’t have anything to worry about and the winds were nuking so the power went out and we didn’t have power all day,” Machado said. “There was dust in the air, I got home from work and about five minutes into that phone call there was smoke coming all over our house, so I basically grabbed the stuff for disaster.” 

Maui has emergency sirens and alerts set up in case of an emergency, like the fire, but according to Machado, the sirens never went off, leaving citizens left in the dark as to what was happening.  

After leaving her apartment complex, Machado was stuck in gridlock traffic due to limited infrastructure on the island. According to Machado, a normally five-minute drive took a trip of over 30 minutes. While she was able to get to a friend’s neighborhood, some people were forced to evacuate in unprecedented ways.  

“People had to get out of their cars to escape the fire and hop in the water just to make sure that they were safe,” Gonzalez said.  

After getting to her friend’s neighborhood, Machado went to a dirt road to overlook Lahaina where she saw her apartment complex completely ablaze. Now there is nothing left of the building she once called home.  

Gonzalez was out of state when the fire broke out. She was visiting family before moving to Texas to attend Texas State and move-in to her dorm. While she was excited to start life at university, the fire made her worried for the future of the island and her friends who reside there.  

“I’ve been excited to move but with the fires going on, all I want to do is be home because I know all of my friends have lost their homes and I think being together would make me feel a lot better,” Gonzalez said. “I went to California right before I came here and me and my cousin put a bunch [of] clothes together to ship out to Maui so that made me feel a lot better about moving so far and being able to help in any way I can.” 

Maui will not be the same for years to come and some of these effects are seen now, as electricity is still out and schools are not running. With governmental issues being rampant, the locals have relied on each other for support.  

“This is just the beginning. Even people that didn’t lose their homes are impacted because now there’s no business… It’s a disaster zone and the local people are the ones that are helping the community. The government has left them high and dry,” Machado said. “The people of Maui need help. There’s no school – the kids need to go to school. The high school is untouched, but they can’t get up there because it is a crime scene.” 

Eventually, Machado is planning on rebuilding the resources lost in the fire, but currently, the focus is on Gonzalez and getting her comfortable in Texas. Machado will live with family in Catalina Island, an island outside California, before and while she rebuilds.  

“I am planning to rebuild eventually but right now I’m just trying to put one foot in front of the other and getting [Hana] situated and set up knowing she has a dorm, and this is her home for right now,” Machado said.  

While San Marcos is over 3,000 miles away from Maui, Machado said that her and Gonzalez have been met with kindness and empathy for their situation. While people may not be able to travel directly to Maui to help, Machado recommends that if one wants to donate, they should donate directly to families rather than big corporations to ensure the donations do go to the locals.  

“You’ll see celebrities and famous people donating millions of dollars, nobody’s seeing that,” Machado said. “If there is a way for people to help, it’s by helping families directly instead of big corporations.” 

Gonzalez recommends that people avoid travel to the island as people rebuild what was lost.  

“To help Lahaina and the community, I think tourists shouldn’t visit Maui, at least not yet,” Gonzalez said. “It’s a vacation for them but people in Lahaina cannot enjoy their own home because they’re trying to rebuild everything that is gone.” 

With her time at Texas State, Gonzalez is bringing a mood of compassion and kindness both to herself and the people around her.  

“I’m just always being kind because you never know what people are going through,” Gonzalez said. 

There is currently a GoFundMe raising money for Machado and Gonzalez to rebuild.

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