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Montreal-area man recounts his family's escape from Maui wildfires


The Carpinteyro family from Montreal's South Shore was visiting Hawaii for the fourth time in late June.

The island of Maui was their final stop when it was hit back-to-back by a tropical storm and wildfires. They didn't worry much at first.

But on their last day, they found themselves in the middle of the town of Lahaina, a resort beach-front vacation spot, as it went up in flames on Aug. 8.

There was a power failure, and emergency sirens were not functioning.

"It was three o'clock and there was big smoke, a lot of closed streets, lots of police, and we could see something big was going on", said Marco Carpinteyro, the director of the Maison de la famille LeMoyne, which assists underprivileged families.

Strangely enough, he says, no one seemed to be too worried at least in mid-afternoon. The fire was destroying one city block. But it was limited in scope.

"It wasn't panic, more curiosity, and getting pictures, getting close to the fire," said Carpinteyro, who was travelling with his wife, their two teenage children, and one of their friends.

The parents knew they needed to find an exit fast as smoke filled city streets. Many roads were blocked. Locals and tourists were caught with nowhere to go.

"That's when it hit us; my wife said we have to get out of here" he recounted.

With three teenagers in the back of the car, it turned into a race for their lives, especially as locals also decided to leave at the same time

"There was a big line after and before us in the car, who wanted to get out," added Carpinteyro. "The highway was narrow. Traffic wasn't moving fast."

After a powerful storm the day before, broken trees and hydro poles littered the streets.

Communications, including cell phones, emergency services, and even sirens, were down. It wasn't any better at the Maui airport.

"It was out of control, overwhelmed, all the airlines, you name it, couldn't get out enough people," Carpinteyro said.

Marco Carpinteyro pictured in Hawaii enjoying a beer before the state was ravaged by deadly wildfires. (Submitted photo)

Their flight home through Los Angeles was cancelled, and the family slept in the airport terminal before making alternative flight arrangements.

Only when the family landed in Montreal did they discover that the town they had just left was now destroyed, with nearly 100 people feared dead.

"A really nice place and it was not there anymore; it was gone. I don't have the words. It's too big to comprehend," said the father, shaking his head.

Carpinteyro and his family say they want to return to Maui one day, but right now, their heart is with those left behind, having to rebuild from scratch. Top Stories

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