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Hawaiian Man Cycled Into The Maui Wildfire To Save His Grandmother

by Nolan Hawk

A brave Hawaiian man biked into the Maui wildfire to on a two-wheeler to save his grandmother from the wind stoked inferno.

Pa’ele Kiakona, 28, embarked on a frantic 13-mile journey through the flaming town of Lahaina on Aug. 8, in a heroic attempt to save his grandmother from certain death.

Kiakona was raised in Lahaina, before moving to his current home in Honokohau Valley, which turned out to be a harrowing ride away from the scorched beach front town.

He said that he was warned about the fire at 4 p.m., when someone from another island told him that the fire was headed towards his grandmother’s hometown.

Kiakona initially drove towards Lahaina in a car, but bumper-to-bumper traffic three miles outside of town stopped his progress.

He managed to borrow a friend’s bike and rode in on a path along the shoreline. “I didn’t know the severity of the fire until I got closer,” Kiakona noted.

“There was smoke in all directions – it was like something you’d see in a movie,” he added.

Kiakona told the New York Post that “the fire was coming in really fast,” as he frantically peddled into the blaze, and their were multiple points during the journey that the over 80 mph winds almost knocked him off the bike.

“There were points where I felt I would give up, like I couldn’t make it,” he recalled. “I could feel my legs building up with lactic acid, my lungs were heavy, my heart was pounding.”

“I continued and pushed through it. Pure instinct took over – nothing was going to stop me from getting there to save my family,” Kiakona stated. “I felt as if God had his hand on my shoulder, pushing me, helping me.”

Kiakona managed to reach his grandma’s house on Front Street, a narrow road along the Lahaina Harbor waterfront, just in time.

Upon arrival, he urged his grandmother and her tenants, who had a single car, to “leave now.” They all hopped into the vehicle and sped off to safety.

One of Kiakona’s cousins, who clearly had the same idea, pulled up with a dirtbike and in turn, rescued him. Under a half-hour later, his grandmother’s home was destroyed by the fire.

“By the time we met (just outside Lahaina), their house was gone,” he added. “I got them out just in time.”

Sanford Hill, 72, a resident of Hale Mahaolu Eono, a senior living facility in Lahaina, said he only managed to escape by “dumb luck.”

Hill said that he and many of his neighbors, who were all 62 and over, got word they might need to evacuate, but were later told that the fire had been contained.

“I wasn’t worried about it. Nobody else was,” he told NBC News. “Everybody else was home. Nobody evacuated. Nobody left.”

So he headed out to his scheduled dentist appointment. It was only on his way back home, that he saw the the smoke billowing from the town.

As Hill drove closer to home, he came across a woman attempting to escape the blaze on foot, and picked her up.

The drove away to one of her friend’s houses, where they were safe for the night, but he still doesn’t know how many of his neighbors made it out of their 34-unit building.

“There is no way for us to find out who survived,” he said, adding that he knows of only three others that got out.

“That’s just hard to talk about, because I don’t really know who’s gone,” he noted. “I haven’t wrapped my head around that yet.”

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