San Francisco mayor leaves Maui as fires rage

As flames ripped through Lahaina's Front Street, a major tourist destination in Maui, destroying homes and killing at least 36 people, San Francisco's mayor was urged to leave her vacation. 

London Breed was in Maui on a personal trip, her office confirmed Thursday. And since the governor of Hawaii issued an advisory to visitors to leave, she evacuated to nearby Oahu. A spokesperson said she was never in any danger.

"This wildfire is devastating to witness," Breed's spokesperson said. "And our thoughts are with the people of Maui." 

Conversely, Maui residents who were vacationing in the Bay Area returned home – one couple returned to devasation. 

Kimo and Steffani Kirkman were in tears at the Oakland airport, thinking of their two dogs and their home in Lahaina in the path of the fire.

"The whole town is gone. Front street, Lahaina Luna, we live right off of Lahaina Luna, we have a house and our dogs are stuck in the house," said Kimo Kirkman.

Once they returned, they learned the fire had destroyed everything. Their dogs' tracking devices showed they had been in the Kirkman's house that burned.

"We just hope and pray the smoke inhalation got them and they just went to sleep, they didn't suffer," said Steff Baku-Kirkman, "It was just numbing to the heart and to the mind. But I know people who have lost more. We have two cars, two suitcases and our lives."

The Kirkmans said they had been preparing to move to the San Francisco Bay Area to take a job in Castro Valley. 

They had most of their belongings boxed up for the move. They said their two daughters, fortunately had been away. One had just moved, and the other was on the other side of Maui when the fire broke out. A friend set up a fundraiser on gofundme to help them. 

There were plenty of Bay Area connections to the Maui fires.

One San Jose native, Melody Guest, who now lives in Maui in the city of Kihei, described the terrifying moments when flames roared into the western part of the island.

She works at the Wailea golf course, about a 45-minute drive south of Lahaina. She said some employees had to evacuate and stayed overnight at the golf course.

Guest said it was a scary and tense situation, as she could see the glow of the flames across the highway from her home.

"Throughout the day we had these huge winds, giant gusts that prevented firefighters from being able to knock down the fire. Last night, it just blew the fire down the hill to Kihei," she said. 

Trisha Jardine, another resident, said she decided to evacuate as the smoke blew in.

"It was scary, more scary because  have 2 young children...trying to avoid being on the road, knowing that you need to get to safety. We ended up staying at my office for the night for safety. Then we got the all clear this morning that we could head back to Kihei," said Jardine.

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Hawaii's acting governor urging people to stay away.

"We signed another emergency proclamation which would discourage tourists from going to Maui. Even as early as this morning, planes were landing on Maui," said Sylvia Luke, the Actng Hawaii Governor.

At San Francisco International Airport on Wednesday night, passengers returning from Hawaii recounted the chaos and shared their prayers for those impacted.

"The winds were extreme. By the end of the trip about Monday, Tuesday, it really started picking up," said Isaac Dozier of Oakland.

"I've been to Maui. It's one of my favorite island.  All you can do is just pray for the people," said Kabir Jain, a Novato resident, who flew back from Honolulu Wednesday night.

"Lots of prayers and just thoughts of them that they get through this okay," said Jan Peck, a Tulare returning from a family vacation.