MAUI, Hawaii – It’s been five weeks since the devastating wildfires ravaged the popular tourist town of Lahaina on Maui. The death toll currently stands at 115 with more than 60 people still missing. For many survivors we interviewed, the story was the same: If they had waited even a few minutes more to leave their homes – they may not have survived.
Thirty-six-year-old videographer Davin Phelps saw the smoke racing toward his Lahaina home as he headed to pick up his kids from school.
“So, I called my wife, who was home alone, and I told her to get out of there,” Phelps told us. “At this point, we didn’t know how bad it was, you know, so I didn’t know what to tell her. I just felt completely helpless. I had my two children with me. I didn’t know if I should go back into the fire or what, so it was really traumatic,” Phelps recalled.
Meanwhile, heavy traffic had pinned in Davin’s wife Marissa, leaving her with nowhere to go.
“And she calls me, and her car is getting filled with smoke. She’s crying and my wife is not a dramatic person, so I knew it was serious. Luckily, someone in front of her went up on the sidewalk and she just followed them out and she got out and we thank God,” he said.
It wasn’t until later that they realized Marissa’s miracle of survival.
“Our friends’ parents were 10 minutes behind her. They didn’t make it, and they died from smoke inhalation and they were just minutes behind her. That could have been her,” Phelps said.
Meanwhile, it was a similar story for 36-year-old Dustin Dudoit and his family.
“The wind pushed through the heat as if the fire was right next to me, but it was a block away,” Dudoit recalled.
By the time Dustin had pulled away from his house the fire engulfed homes on his street. He and his family narrowly escaped.
“It was pretty much like one bag that my wife grabbed and some papers. Everything else is just ashes,” he said.
Since the fire, Davin posted a video on Instagram @davin.phelpsfilms, capturing the moment hundreds of surfers took part in a paddle-out ceremony to remember the victims of Lahaina. One of his collaborators said making the video was “crazy therapy” and that “hope & community is the only thing keeping us going right now.”
Hundreds of surfers took part in a paddle-out ceremony (Photo credit: @davin.phelpsfilms)
For Davin, a Christian and regular attendee at Harvest Kumulani Chapel in Kapalua, he’s never been so inspired by his fellow Believers.
“And I’ve heard people asking like, Where is God in all this? Like, He’s here. I see it! I see it in everyone’s faces that’s helping. I see it. And everyone in this church is full of life here. I’ve never believed so much in my life,” Phelps said.
Although Phelps’ house survived, it’s not livable. So for now, he and his family are staying in a vacation rental provided through friends at the church and taking it one day at a time. Phelps says he continues to be amazed by God’s provision.
“Ever since the fire, I’ve just, completely had to live by faith. I have no way of making money. I’ve been completely relying on God and this church, and they’ve provided completely, like every meal and taking care of everything that we’ve needed. We’ve been provided for. It’s just beautiful. Everyone’s helping each other,” he said.
For Dustin, a self-described fishing addict, he can’t wait to get back in the water. He lost all his fishing gear in the fire. But when Operation Blessing heard about his plight, they stepped in with brand-new fishing spears and fins.
“That’s when I talk to God the most when I’m diving, you know, I really do, I guess, in my head, you know. It’s just kind of like my church and gives me a sense of normalcy, so I’m very thankful for Operation Blessing,” he said.