On August 8, 2023, devastating wildfires struck throughout Maui, Hawaii leading to one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history, resulting in the destruction of the historic town of Lahaina and more than 100 fatalities.
The wildfires would test the perseverance and fortitude of one Maui family of first responders, who dedicated their lives to public service.
“I was on Moloka’i where I’m stationed as a sergeant in patrol when I first heard about the fires,” said Maui Police Department Sgt. Bethany Cravalho, who is also a Hawaii Army National Guard Soldier. “I contacted all my family; my cousins are firefighters and one of them is stationed in Lahaina so I was worried about him and his safety of course.”
Many of Cravalho’s family members are first responders in both the fire department and police departments on Maui. Her grandpa, Joseph Cravalho, was the first Maui born and raised Maui Police Chief. Cravalho is the third generation Maui Police Officer in her family and she credits her upbringing for her family’s dedication to serve.
“It’s really more of a Hawaii thing, to want to give back and to take care of each other,” said Cravalho.
While off duty, Cravalho’s cousin, Timothy Herrick, a fire captain with the Lahaina Fire Station, heard of the rapid spread of the wildfires spreading through Lahaina over the radio. He gathered his firefighting gear and headed to the main fire station where he was met with other firefighters racing to help with the fire response.
“As soon as I heard what was going on, I grabbed the gear that I had and went to our main station,” said Herrick.
Once Herrick arrived at the main fire station, he noticed all of the firefighting vehicles were already dispatched to fight the wildfires. He sprung into action searching for another vehicle and was able to utilize an old lifeguard truck that was at the station. Herrick, along with a number of his fellow firefighters, drove to Lahaina to help battle the wildfires. On their way, they noticed hundreds of structures were already on fire and still burning rapidly.
“There were explosions going off, people were freaked out and rightfully so,” said Herrick. “It was like a war zone.”
Due to the strong winds linked to Hurricane Dora, the wildfire rapidly spread through the historic town of Lahaina, engulfing everything in its path. Many areas were inaccessible to vehicles due to the downed power lines which made it very difficult for rescuers to reach and evacuate people to safety.
“There were lines down, poles and hot stuff and glass and you had to traverse all of that,” said Herrick. “It (the fire) was just generating so much heat that the houses were just catching, it was just progressing,”
As daylight turned to dusk and the sky succumbed to the darkness, the wildfire progressed and so did the first responders’ rescue mission.
“We went from building to building, and knocked on every door to try and wake people up,” said Herrick. “No one’s thinking it’s gonna get this big, so people had that false sense of security like, oh, the fire department, they got it.”
At around midnight, Herrick worked his way towards Front Street, where he saw the U.S. Coast Guard rescuing people from the water.
“Around Front Street, we went down there and the Coast Guard was saying there were 60 to 100 people there,” said Herrick.
Through the chaos of the night, Herrick saw EMS trucks driving in and out of the Lahaina area and Maui Police Department officers everywhere.
From homes within the community of Lahaina to the ocean, the Maui Fire Department, Maui Police Department, U.S. Coast Guard, and other first responders’ heroic actions saved countless lives.
“We went back for more people and found people inside the water and we ended up picking them up and carrying them out of the water,” said Herrick. “There were people all over the place.”
It wasn’t until 9 pm the next day that Herrick rotated out of duty. He is grateful for the continual support of the community.
“Everyday someone’s bringing in food or supplies or stuff for the guys,” said Herrick.
Cravalho hugged her cousin Herrick when she saw him for the first time after the Lahaina fire. She had flown in from Moloka’i during her day off to come back to Maui to check on her family, coworkers and to volunteer to help the community of Lahaina.
“We are really here to serve and that’s what it is at the end of the day,” said Cravalho.
Herrick has been with the Lahaina Fire Station for over 14 years and a firefighter for over 21 years. Although he will be eligible for retirement soon, he plans to stay fighting fires for the love of the job.
“It’s not always easy because you know some of the people you are going to help, but you sign up to do the job to help people so it’s doing what we want to do,” said Herrick.
|LAHAINA, HI, US
This work, Maui First Responder Family’s Dedication to Serve the Community, by SPC Sean Walker, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.