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For one Washington family, vacation in ‘paradise’ turns to disaster

The picture is taken from the inside of a black car. In the front of the picture there is a steering wheel and navigation guid on the car. In front of the car, there is a blue jeep stopped in traffic. In front of the jeep, there is a big plume of smoke going across the road. On the left hand side of the picture, there is a small grassy hill.
Courtesy of Ryan Vogt
After the Vogt family toured sites Maui Monday, they headed back to their resort – and traffic stopped. Flames jumped the highway, said mom, Kara Vogt.

When a Tri-Cities family headed to Hawaii, they hoped it would be the vacation of a lifetime. Instead, they found more of the same conditions they are used to – high winds, lots of smoke and disastrous wildfires.

As the Vogt family landed in Maui, the wind was a little strong. That was OK, they thought. The Tri-Cities is famous for its termination winds.

The family toured sites Monday that mom Kara Vogt remembered from a girlhood visit. Then, they headed back to their resort – and traffic stopped.

“You could see the fire jumping across the road. We saw it happening and yeah it’s pretty scary,” Vogt said.

After turning around, the Vogt family of six scrambled for a place to stay overnight.

Only emergency crews could make it to West Maui.

Wind-driven wildfires quickly spread across Maui. More than 2,100 people stayed in emergency shelters overnight, according to the county of Maui. The Coast Guard said it rescued 14 people from the ocean on Tuesday, after they tried to escape the fire – two children were reunited with family. At least six people have reportedly died.

A red-flag warning was still in effect Wednesday, meaning any fires that spark would likely spread rapidly.

“We saw downed power lines – 30 power lines or more down all along the road,” Vogt said.

Residents' homes and businesses burned.

“A little place we ate at two days ago is completely burned and gone,” she said.

A shop owner told Vogt she’s never seen anything like this. Vogt says their predicament is annoying but she worries about everyone who lives and works in Maui.

With Vogt’s husband and son’s wallets stuck at their resort that they cannot get into, she said she’s not sure what will happen next. Phone lines and internet are down on that part of the island.

It’s a good lesson, she said, to take one hour at a time.

“I mean, yeah, my family is stuck for a few days and we don’t know what we’re going to do, but my heart goes out to these people who have lost everything. It happened so fast,” she said.

Courtney Flatt is a Richland-based multi-media correspondent for Northwest Public Broadcasting and the Northwest News Network focusing on environmental, natural resources and energy issues in the Northwest.