Several boat captains are among those being hailed as heroes for doing what they could to help in Lahaina Harbor during the devastating Maui fires.
As fires began to spread across Maui, Chrissy Lovitt and her wife, Emma Nelson, both of whom are captains, grew worried about their boat. So they went to Lahaina Harbor – and witnessed the horrific scenes that are now known globally.
Seeing the rapidly worsening situation, they and others including another captain, Lashawna Garnier, began evacuating people by boat from the harbor. But then boats, lit by embers carried on the wind, started catching fire and exploding,
“We saw all hell start to break loose,” Lovitt told People. “Keep in mind it goes ocean, harbor, Lahaina, and then fire. So there’s nowhere for us to go, but we’re still focused on just helping people in the harbor,” she says. “We’re hearing hundreds of explosions happening. It was like a flame thrower. The winds were blowing this fire horizontally.”
The water itself became a fiery hazard.
“The harbor was on fire and there were waves — like waves that you can surf outside the harbor, that were on fire,” Lovitt told KHON.
Lovitt described to KHON how, when a Coast Guard vessel was unable to navigate a shallow reef, she and a rescue swimmer were able to go in and find two stranded children.
As fire drew closer, Lovitt jumped in a 10-foot skiff and started finding people nearby to bring onboard. Some were unsure whether they wanted to come with her, she told People.
“They’re saying, ‘We think we should stay. We should save our boats.’ And I said, ‘You’re going to die if you stay. The fire won’t kill you. The smoke will kill you,’” she said.
“I couldn’t see where I was going, but I know the harbor by heart, and we were able to get them out. The old 120-foot boat that I used to drive was sitting out there. And all the years that I drove that 120-foot boat, I thought, ‘If there was ever an apocalypse, where would I go?’ And it would be that boat, because it has water, electricity. It has air conditioning. It has the capacity to hold 7,000 gallons of fuel. So I always thought that would be the boat I would go to. So I took them to that boat, and I dropped them off.”
Lovitt told People that she and Garnier then tried to go help another boat, but a wave killed their motor. They were getting blown out to sea with no way to radio for help – but somehow, they were blown directly towards the old 120-foot boat.
“So we’re waving to the people we just dropped off, waving to them to get their attention,” Lovitt told People. “They’re inside, they’re sheltering, and we’re waving to them. Luckily, they popped their heads out. All I screamed was, ‘Do not miss!’ And I had a line ready to throw to them. If they had let go or the line pulled out of their hands, we would’ve been sent out to sea, maybe to never be found again.”
According to a GoFundMe set up by Lovitt’s brother, she and Nelson are letting several people displaced by the fire stay in their home. Their boat was destroyed and they lost other possessions, but their home was not damaged.