The fire that devastated historic Lahaina in western Maui left a red-roofed home relatively unscathed. The owner says he wants to open the house to the neighborhood to help with the rebuilding.Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images Hide caption
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
The fire that devastated historic Lahaina in western Maui left a red-roofed home relatively unscathed. The owner says he wants to open the house to the neighborhood to help with the rebuilding.
Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images
MAUI, Hawaii – When an inferno swept over Lahaina on the island of Maui, a historic and charming town was reduced to rubble. But the fire left a red-roofed house seemingly untouched by the devastation around it.
"Everyone calls it the 'miracle house,'" Trip Millikin, owner of the home at 271 Front St., told NPR. But the label makes him uneasy, he added, citing the flood of emotions that followed when he heard his home was spared but his community was plundered.
"What happened breaks our hearts," he said. "We love our neighborhood and our friends and just can't believe that the world we knew and loved so well is gone forever."
Massive mental stress from Maui wildfires: "You've lost everything"
Photos of the log home, standing unharmed while its neighbors lay in ashes, quickly attracted online fascination. Millikin's friends call it a beacon of hope. For him, the continued existence of the historic building means that it has a new role to play.
"As soon as we can, we want to open it up to our neighborhood and everyone who worked on it as a base for rebuilding our part of Lahaina," he said.
Nearly 100-year-old house withstood historic fire
It's not easy to explain how and why the house survived a fire that destroyed hundreds of buildings in the area. Millikin points to two important factors: luck and the metal roof he and his wife, Dora Atwater Millikin, installed during the recent renovations.
"I think it's a combination of a commercial corrugated iron roof, the stone area around the house, the palm trees around the house absorbing the heat — and a lot of divine intervention," he said.
The roots of the house go back to 1925; It is believed to have been moved from another location on Maui. After purchasing it in 2021, Millikin and his wife completed a restoration project in 2022.
"We removed five layers of asphalt that were on the roof," Millikin said. When the new metal roof was installed, he added, it had an air pocket in it to allow heat to escape. On the ground floor, they removed all vegetation along the home's drip line and added a stone bumper — a step that was takennot fires, but termites.
Whether intentional or not, these changes will be accompanied by the EU's wildfire regulationsColorado State Forest Service, which highlights the importance of measures such as reducing your home's flammability.
The first priority on the CSFS checklist: making sure the roofing material has a fire rating of A – a designation thatincluding metal roofs.
Airborne ash is the leading cause of wildfire spreads, the Colorado agency's Daniel Beveridge told NPR.
Beveridge said there was no way to know for certain what exactly remained in the Front Street home, but "the metal roof and lack of adjacent combustible materials ... certainly limited the ways in which the building could have caught fire." "
The home at 271 Front St. in Lahaina survived a wildfire due to its metal roof, lack of vegetation along the drip line, and "a lot of divine intervention," the owner says. Nominated for the National Register of Historic Places Hide caption
The home at 271 Front St. in Lahaina survived a wildfire due to its metal roof, lack of vegetation along the drip line, and "a lot of divine intervention," the owner says.
There was only minimal damage to the house
As the high winds of Hurricane Dora drove the fire through Lahaina, large embers flew through the air, but did not cause disaster at the Millikins home.
The fires burned part of the structure, but the only damage was a warped PVC pipe attached to a wall. He also found paint on a wall near the kitchen that had blistered from the intense heat.
"What's behind that are the original planks -- I think they're redwood -- from around 1920. They weren't burned," Millikin said.
A nearby propane tank area also remained intact.
"Can you imagine the propane tank being clogged?" he asked. "The whole house would be gone."
After a fire 8,000 kilometers away
The Millikins weren't in Lahaina when the fire broke out: They were visiting friends and family in Massachusetts. And given the great uncertainty, they haven't been able to return to Maui just yet.
Millikin, a retired portfolio manager, says he first learned about the wildfire from a friend who was fleeing the fire.
From about 5,000 miles away, he received live updates from his friends who were on site watching as their neighborhoods were destroyed. As more houses went up in flames, his friends eventually fled.
Then came the miraculous news that his house had survived.
Priceless connections to Hawaii's ancient past were lost when the cultural center burned down
"Dora and I, the term is 'survival guilt,' and we feel awful, just awful," Millikin said.
"There was a neighbor who texted us and said, 'Oh, you won the lottery.' And when I got that, I almost threw up. I felt so bad because these are my friends. These are my neighbors. And that's all gone."
"It's so awful because this is just the most amazing community of people. Everyone knows everyone, everyone works together, it's a community.”
Before buying the house, the Millikins had lived in a nearby apartment for about ten years. When they managed to buy the dilapidated oceanfront home that was on the market, neighbors welcomed the news that they were planning a restoration.
"Hawaiians worked on this house"
A "before" photo shows Trip and Dora Millikin's Lahaina home before renovations began in 2021. Nominated for the National Register of Historic Places Hide caption
A "before" photo shows Trip and Dora Millikin's Lahaina home before renovations began in 2021.
When Millikin thinks of the twenty or so people who worked on the home's renovation, a flood of names spring to mind. names like Bill and John; Eric and Babe. Or Hoi the carpenter who helped coordinate the work and Kenji and Wayne who painted and Ongele and Gloria the couple who repaired the masonry and did other jobs.
Also on the list is Harry, he said, who because of his job on the roof of the house has the right to park at the house and go surfing whenever he wants.
They should all be proud that the house is still standing and they should know that they are always welcome to return.
“You are part of usOhanaMillikin said, using the Hawaiian term for family. "And when this is all over, they're all going to be there celebrating this house."
After the renovation, the house was nominated for accessionNational Register of Historic Places. Dubbed the Pioneer Mill Company/Lahaina Ice Company Accountant's Home, the home was used by accountants for a business that did everything from supplying ice and soda water to selling electricity to the City of Lahaina.
A return is uncertain for the time being
There are many questions about when residents of the hardest-hit parts of Lahaina could come and see what's left of their community. Officials warn of air, soil and water toxicity. hundreds of peoplego unnoticed, two weeks after the fire.
"I'll probably come home in a couple of weeks, or when I can," Millikin said, adding, "I can't stay in my house."
A mother rushed to save her son from the Maui fires. She couldn't reach him
Friends have offered an apartment in a nearby town, and Dora and Trip plan to volunteer to help with the recovery. If they do, they will also have to deal with the shock of seeing Lahaina without the people and places that made up the fabric of the city until August 8th.
"We want to help our city," Millikin said. "The world I knew is gone and will never come back, and my heart is broken."
The work ahead of them now, he said, is finding ways to help.
"This is the place we love and it's our home and we want to protect it."
After a pause, Millikin added, 'Okay, I'll stop. 'Cause I'm going to cry.'
NPR digital archivist and researchergonna huntcontributed to this story.