Raging brush fires fueled by hurricane-force winds are devastating the state of Hawaii — with at least 36 people killed on the island of Maui and more than 11,000 people evacuated, according to news reports.
Much of the town of Lahaina has been destroyed, and hundreds of families have been displaced. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are among those affected by the fires and resulting evacuations.
All missionaries are safe and accounted for on Maui and the other islands, but more than 500 Church members have evacuated as of Thursday morning, said Elder Mark A. Bragg, General Authority Seventy and President of the Church’s North America West Area.
Elder Bragg said stake centers on the island are being used as shelters for the community — with the Kahului Hawaii West Stake Center currently housing hundreds of people. Others are staying with family or friends farther away from the fires or at other evacuation sites.
While the fires have damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes, the Church’s chapels in Lahaina appear to be undamaged.
Elder Bragg said the last few days have been emotional.
“As an area presidency, we are grateful for the kindness and generosity of the Saints in Maui who have provided food, water, clothing and shelter for those in the community who have been impacted,” Elder Bragg said.
He added that after the fires, there will be need for great clean-up and restoration efforts, and Latter-day Saints on Maui are already planning on how to marshal the resources for such an effort.
“There is an island spirit of aloha that naturally prompts people to reach out and bless others. We have seen this since the very start of the firestorm.”