Maui Wildfires Kill Dozens and Devastate Communities and Hospitality Businesses

In Hawaii’s deadliest disaster since at least 1960, a series of powerful and fatal wildfires have devastated parts of the island of Maui, killing at least 55 people and burning hundreds of buildings in the historic resort town of Lahaina. Thousands of residents have evacuated and damage assessment has just begun, but Wine Spectator has learned that the popular restaurant Fleetwood’s on Front St., owned by rock musician Mick Fleetwood, has been destroyed. As of Aug. 11, none of the four major fires that erupted on Maui have been contained.

When the wildfires began has not been determined, but they were exacerbated by dry weather and strong winds from Hurricane Dora, a category 4 storm that passed 800 miles southwest of Hawaii but brought 80 mph winds to the islands. Local officials are asking for tourists to leave the island during rescue and recovery efforts.

Lahaina, a historic city and favored tourist destination that was once Hawaii’s royal capital, has borne the brunt of the devastation, with over 270 buildings razed. According to Fleetwood’s wine director Matthew Hernandez—who was reporting from the town of Wailuku, east of Lahaina and separated by the West Maui Natural Area Reserve—there wasn’t much time for anyone to prepare for evacuation. Cell service went down an hour earlier, giving the staff little time to close down the restaurant and contact others. “We technically weren’t evacuated from Lahaina,” Hernandez explained to Wine Spectator via email. “The fire started around 3:30 p.m. and literally was a flame-engulfing fireball within 60 minutes. Everybody was scrambling on their own to leave the west side.”

Because there wasn’t any time to prepare, the entire restaurant, including its 2,000-bottle wine collection, was burned to the ground. Fleetwood (of Fleetwood Mac fame and noted oenophile) opened the restaurant in 2012. It won its first Award of Excellence earlier this year. Located on Gallery Road, a popular area for tourism, Fleetwood’s was known for live music, with Fleetwood himself often taking the stage.

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“Maui and the Lahaina community have been my home for several decades,” Fleetwood wrote in a statement on Instagram on Aug. 9. “This is a devastating moment for Maui and many are suffering unimaginable loss. Fleetwood’s on Front St. has been lost and while we are heartbroken, our main priority is the safety of our dear staff and team members.”

Team members from World Central Kitchen (WCK), the non-profit organization founded by chef and humanitarian José Andrés, arrived on the island on the evening of Aug. 9, bringing with them hundreds of sandwiches to feed emergency workers as they struggled to control the flames, according to a WCK representative via email. A day later, they were visiting shelters and rural communities on Maui and the Big Island to provide food and to address future needs.

“On behalf of myself and my family I share my heartfelt thoughts and prayers for the people of Maui,” wrote Fleetwood. “We are committed to supporting the community and those affected by this disaster in the days, months and years to come.”

With flames continuing in the area, non-essential personnel are still barred from entering Lahaina to learn what has been lost.

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Maui Wildfires Kill Dozens and Devastate Communities and Hospitality Businesses Maui Wildfires Kill Dozens and Devastate Communities and Hospitality Businesses *Maui Wildfires Kill Dozens and Devastate Communities and Hospitality Businesses