A woman who bravely escaped the Maui wildfire in Hawaii by running through a field engulfed in flames has tragically passed away after more than seven weeks of treatment in a hospital burn unit.
Laurie Allen, the courageous survivor, succumbed on Friday at Straub Medical Center in Honolulu, as reported on a GoFundMe page established for her and her husband, Perry Allen.
Laurie’s sister-in-law, Penny Allen Hood, expressed, “Laurie slipped away peacefully. Her heart was tired, and she was ready.”
In the devastating wildfire that ravaged historic Lahaina on Maui’s west coast on August 8, Laurie Allen was one of at least 98 individuals who lost their lives. This wildfire marked the deadliest in the United States in over a century, leaving a trail of destruction that consumed 2,200 buildings, primarily residences.
The fire’s origin appeared to be the result of strong winds causing a Hawaiian Electric power line to fall and ignite the dry vegetation. Despite initial containment efforts, the fire unexpectedly reignited and swiftly engulfed the town.
Perry Allen, an artist, suffered a devastating loss as their family home and a lifetime of work were reduced to ashes, according to Hood. He was working 15 miles away from home when the wildfire struck.
Laurie Allen, who worked as an administrative assistant for a physical therapist from the comfort of her home, was present at the house when the fire erupted. She attempted to escape in a vehicle along with others, but their path was obstructed by a fallen tree engulfed in flames.
In a desperate bid for survival, Laurie Allen exited the vehicle and courageously ran 100 yards through a field ablaze with burning grass. She was ultimately rescued by a police officer and firefighter, who rushed her to an emergency shelter.
In the ensuing weeks, Laurie Allen endured a series of surgeries, including skin grafts, as well as battles against infections. She was in and out of consciousness and faced significant communication challenges. Nevertheless, at one point, she raised hopes by responding to a request to wiggle her toes.
However, her condition deteriorated in recent days, and on Thursday, Hood posted that the struggle to mend Laurie’s physical condition would soon come to an end. Laurie Allen was subsequently taken off life support on Friday.
Hood reflected on the profound impact of Laurie’s ordeal, noting that it touched the lives of many, including childhood friends, family members, colleagues, church acquaintances, and clients from the physical therapy clinic where Laurie worked. She emphasized the importance of kindness and the lasting impressions small gestures can leave on others.
While some Lahaina residents whose homes were destroyed started returning to the town last week, authorities cautioned against sifting through the ashes for belongings due to concerns about stirring up toxic dust containing asbestos, lead, arsenic, and other harmful substances.
Returning residents received support in the form of water, shade, washing stations, portable toilets, medical and mental health care, and transportation assistance. Nonprofit organizations also provided personal protective equipment, including masks and coveralls.
Nearly 8,000 displaced residents are currently residing in hotels and other accommodations across Maui. Economists have warned that, without changes in zoning and other policies, housing costs in the already expensive Lahaina area could become prohibitively high for many residents as they seek to rebuild their lives.