Hawaiians have been subjected in recent weeks to a horrific ordeal that saw Maui transformed into a crematorium and hundreds of lives lost. It appears as though bad government maximized their suffering.
Progressive politics reportedly helped set up Maui to burn and delayed the supply of critically needed water. Distrusting of how the public might react if given a proper warning, Herman Andaya, the now-resigned administrator of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, chose not to sound the alarm when wildfires started to ravage Lahaina. While other officials had been warned years in advance that the historic town faced high wildfire risks, they dragged their feet on preventive measures, partly resulting in a "lack of early evacuations and unpracticed escape plans," according to the New York Times.
It is now also clear that those who survived the blazes were often residents who disregarded orders from local and state authorities.
Misplaced trust in those authorities reportedly all but guaranteed one mother's bereavement.
Luz Vargas ran a cleaning service in Lahaina and was working the day her town was reduced to ash and ruin. Her adopted son, Keyiro Fuentes, who would have turned 15 on Sunday, was five miles away at home, enjoying the last day of his summer vacation.
CBS News reported that when Vargas and her husband, Andres, learned about the threat of the fires, they jumped in the car and desperately tried to race home to their son.
"I was told, 'Don't go, don't go,'" Vargas told CBS News. "But I responded, 'My son.'"
Encountering gridlocked traffic and in a race against time, they ditched their vehicle and continued on foot. However, they were met with another obstacle: a police barricade.
NPR reported that police were barring people from going toward the firestorm.
"I told them my son is still in our house. I said he's at this house on this street," Vargas recalled, noting that a language barrier further frustrated her efforts.
"That's when I got down on my knees and threw my hands in the air," said Vargas. "And then I disobeyed."
Vargas slipped past the officers on melting flip-flops and was reportedly taken by a man on a motorcycle to the fiery front. When she attempted to enter the fire zone, first responders reportedly assured her the area had been cleared, that no one remained, and to "have faith" that her son had escaped.
With the understanding that their son and others in the area had been cleared out, Vargas and her husband waited for the boy to turn up at Honokowai Beach, routinely checked in with authorities, and tried calling around.
Unable to find or hail Fuentes, Vargas made her way home two days later, where she discovered that the area had not been cleared and that at least one person remained.
The mother found her boy dead in his bedroom, still clutching his dog.
"He was not as I expected, in ashes. God maintained him like this. So we knew it was him," said Vargas, who prayed over Fuentes' body, "Please God, hold him for me."
Andres and Vargas' son Josue reportedly wrapped the boy's charred body in a tarp and carried it a half-mile to a police station.
Josue, the victim's brother, told CBS News, "He was too young. If we still had time, I know he would have been a very, very, very good man."
The Associated Press indicated that barricades erected by authorities did not just slow Vargas' rescue efforts in town, but prevented some Maui residents from escaping the hellish blazes.
West Maui residents attempting to flee the fires attempted to exit via the only paved road out of town, but authorities had reportedly set up a barricade, barring access to Highway 30. As a result, numerous cars were sent back into the flames, resulting in a number of people perishing in their vehicles.
Those who disregarded the barricade managed to survive, including one family who ignored the barricade and drove around it. Having ignored the instruction of authorities, the family ended up safe and secure in a nearby town 48 minutes later, reported the Associated Press.
A man who similarly had no time for these restrictions drove his four-wheel-drive vehicle down a dirt road to safety, while another went uphill to safety — precisely where Herman Andaya worried residents might go if he sounded the warning sirens.
While the fire department had reportedly temporarily closed the Lahaina Bypass road due to the fire, thereby sealing the only route out of Lahaina to the south, Maui Police Chief John Pelletier later claimed officers never prevented people from getting out of town but rather sought to prevent them from driving over downed power lines.
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