Island Resident Deploys To Help Maui After Devastating Fire

Jason Graziadei •


Nantucket resident Anne Stearns had long hoped to return to Maui, where she had lived in the late 1990s. Just not under these circumstances.

Stearns, who works as a security officer at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, deployed to Maui last week with the Red Cross as part of a team working to help residents of Lahaina recover from the devastating fires that destroyed most of the town on Aug. 9th. The death toll from the blaze stands at 115, but an unknown number of people remain missing.

Stearns arrived on Maui on Friday.

"I’ve always had a place in my heart for the Hawaiian people," she said.

With her team from the Red Cross, Stearns is helping approximately 5,000 displaced residents who are now living in 13 different hotels.

"They are considered shelters - each family has one room right now - and there’s about 400 people on a waiting list to get into rooms," Stearns said. "As disaster health services, we contact each person to see what their immediate needs are: do they need eyeglasses for example. We have an amazing program where we give certificates out to people who lost their eyeglasses and it gives them an exam and a new pair of eyeglasses. Ninety-nine percent of the people who escaped the fires left with nothing. No driver's license, no Social Security card, no medication. So we go through their prescriptions and we help them get new medications. People also left without their walkers, or they were carried to a car, so they don’t have their wheelchairs. They have absolutely nothing."

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A sign in Maui after the fire. Photo courtesy of Anne Stearns

During her first day on Maui, Stearns said she was reunited with a woman named Kaleo, who she knew 23 years ago when she lived on the island.

"She saw me in a hotel and yelled my name and we just hugged and it made my day just to hug one of my friends and know that they made it out safely," Stearns said. 

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Stearns and her old friend Kaleo reunited on Maui.

"The Hawaiian people are strong, fierce, and proud," Stearns added. "The stories that they tell us are absolutely horrifying. There is a huge need for mental health for the survivors, especially the children. We hug and cry together. Today and tomorrow there are a lot of memorials going on for the victims.

"It has been an absolute honor to assist the Hawaiian people with anything I can," Stearns added. "Hawaii has taken an even bigger part of my heart than it did before."

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