BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Rescue and recovery efforts are continuing on Maui, nearly a week after wildfires swept through the historic town of Lahaina, claiming lives and destroying property.
Sierra Breithaupt moved from Buffalo to Lahaina. Her home, everything in it and her business burned to the ground during the wildfires.
Breithaupt’s best friend, Buffalo resident Chantal Elliott, has been keeping in touch with her as best as she can.
“She’s the type of person who would give you the shirt off her back in a heartbeat, no questions asked and they just lost everything,” Elliott said. “They didn’t even have time to find one of their cats. They just grabbed things and left.”
Elliott set up a GoFundMe page for Breithaupt and her family. They’re trying to raise $20,000. the funds will be used to buy water, food and basic necessities.
“To help them reestablish a sense of home, to help them rebuild their businesses,” she said. “They lost a full shop business and kiosk and they just want to help the community rebuild. There’s a lot of locals that have been there forever that don’t have the outside resources that we do.”
News 4 briefly spoke to Breithaupt. She says she is still in shock and is still looking for her cat, and for friends that are unaccounted for. She tells News 4 she is thankful for all the support.
Michelle Mueller, moved to Maui a few weeks ago to work as an ESL teacher. She is safe and the school where she teaches was untouched by the fire. That school is now getting ready to take in at least 200 children from other schools that were burned down.
“It’s just been unbelievable. I have been very grateful to be okay, that the school is okay, most of the kids in the school are okay, but everybody has been impacted by it,” Mueller, who is originally from Niagara Falls, said. “People know people that have lost homes, people that have lost lives, people have known people that have lost jobs.”
Mueller says the effects of the wildfire have been heartbreaking to see, and people are still waiting to know if their loved ones are okay.
“A lot of people have hope. They’re still looking for loved ones, but it’s uncertain how many have lost their lives. The locals have been speaking and they think the [death] count is a lot higher than what’s been conveyed,” Mueller said. “FEMA and the National Guard, police and firefighters are trying to give a confirmed count, not an estimated at this point, so I do expect the number to rise over the next couple of days but we still don’t know what that count is.”
Over the last few days, Mueller has been volunteering and helping to distribute food and supplies to people in need.
“We’re all trying to pitch in and it’s been this massive grassroots effort to help the people get relocated and resettled and support them whatever way we can,” Mueller said.