Helping our Neighbors: Cleaning up After a Disaster on Maui

On Friday, August 24, 2018, while all of Hawaii was taking cover to brace from Hurricane Lane, another tragedy struck near Lahaina on Maui. A massive wildfire broke out and burned more than 300 acres in this area. It sent people fleeing from their homes and left them without any protection from the hurricane. It was devastating to this area and to our island.

This tragic wildfire destroyed the homes and livelihood of more than 22 families. This area relies on taro farming to make a living, but the fire left them with nothing. Thankfully, no one lost their life in this devastating fire and our Maui Ohana has come together to help these families rebuild and clean up the area. A wildfire is the last thing that anyone would expect to happen during such a wet, tropical event like a hurricane.

Skyline’s Joe Imhoff shared, “It is so crazy that this wildfire swept through this community during a hurricane. Everyone was hunkered down inside their homes with mass amounts of provisions when they had to flee with moments to spare. Some people had to flee their house on foot as their vehicles burned in their driveway.”  

Joe volunteered with one of the families whose houses burned in the fire that occurred during hurricane Lane. He traveled to Lahaina three days after the hurricane and fire devastated the area. After this major rain and wind event shook the island, there were smoldering piles of remains of houses, vehicles, and taro plants everywhere. He was able to see bellowing stacks of black smoke from the highway as he approached the area.

We are so proud to be part of such an amazing community that drops everything to help those in need. Joe said that the most moving thing he saw during his time helping the families affected by this disaster was “connecting with the homeowners who were on site dragging burnt branches away from their homes where they lived up until 3 days prior. They were completely heartbroken and yet very grateful for the love and support of the community coming together to rebuild their homesteads.”

car destroyed by fire on Maui Hawaii

All day, Joe and the other volunteers witnessed construction materials being delivered from other areas of the island. People donated lumber, water pipes, generators, and more to help these families start rebuilding their homes.

“There is a very long road for this community to rebuild their homesteads from scratch. I hope the community support sustains as long as it takes for 22 families to be sleeping in their own house once again,” Joe said.  

Joe has lived on Maui for 17 years. He shared that he was never someone who volunteered a lot when he was growing up but when he joined the Skyline team and participated in the Paid Service Day program, he found a passion for helping his community and has made countless friends along the way. He quickly started going above and beyond to make our planet a better place. He started volunteering for various conservation-related non-profit organizations around Hawaii.

He said, “Skyline provided the motivation for me to volunteer by paying my hourly wages, and now I go and volunteer on my own above and beyond Skyline’s PSD (Paid Service Day) program.”  

Today, Joe is in charge of coordinating volunteer opportunities for the Skyline team. He loves to “get them equally stoked about volunteering in the community.”

Skyline organizes volunteer missions all across the Hawaiian islands every year. We have traveled to Kaho’olawe island to plant trees, we’ve worked with a Nursery who grows some of the rarest plants on earth, we’ve helped restore an endangered Seabird Habitat, and more.

“I’ve never seen another company who provides this level of service to the community. I hope other companies implement this kind of program,” Joe said.

For the people affected by this recent disaster in Lahaina, there is a blank slate for them to start over. Even in the midst of devastation, there are some positive things that have come out of it such as the community coming together to help those in need.    

Joe shared, “Thank goodness no one was killed (during this disaster). This is a resilient community who has endured a lot. I am humbled by my time spent helping this community.”   

Skyline Hawaii works very hard to embody our Do Good. Have Fun. motto every day. We highly value our island community and culture. We also do our part to help protect Hawaii’s fragile environment and irreplaceable culture through our conversation efforts like paid service days and our annual Zip for the Trees event.

Sometimes it can be intimidating to choose a volunteer effort to be part of. There are so many amazing causes that help the environment and people around the world. It’s ok to start small. Every single effort and contribution counts. Together, we can make the world a better place.