After the fire started last Tuesday, the Rusher family packed up a few belongings and left their vacation home in Lahaina, Hawaii.
They thought they would be gone only a few hours and planned to return after the wind died down and the distant fire was under control.
Without internet or phone service, they listened for updates on the car radio just a few miles away. But no one warned them that the fast-moving wildfire in West Maui could destroy their community.
“There was no communication from the government,” said Scott Rusher, who was used to the warning system before hurricanes. “There was no communication from local or state.”
When they eventually returned to check on the house that Rusher, his wife, Stacy, and their family visited several times a year, they were told to evacuate. As they drove away from their burning neighborhood, they saw hundreds of others fleeing, some on foot wheeling suitcases behind them.
Scott and Stacy Rusher, their son and his girlfriend were able to make it out and fly back to their home in Manhattan Beach. Since their return to California, they confirmed that their Lahaina house had burned down — one of more than 2,200 structures that were destroyed in the wildfires that have killed at least 93 people, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in the last century.
The Rushers are coordinating a donation drive with the Jimmy Miller Foundation to collect clothes to ship back to displaced residents in Maui. More than 100 donations have been received so far.
The family will continue to collect donations at 4435 W. 153rd St. in Lawndale from Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We’re going to do this for as long as there’s a need for it,” Scott Rusher said.
Rusher said he wished that he had taken more than just his license and credit card when leaving his Lahaina house, like his wallet with the decades-old funeral card of one of his high school friends. But he said he’s grateful that his family is safe and had a home in Southern California to return to, knowing others lost everything.
“We were fortunate enough,” he said. “But the end result was tragic and devastating.”