EXCLUSIVE: Bay Area native, Lahaina resident and family left homeless after Maui fires

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Wednesday, August 16, 2023
EXCLUSIVE: Family native to Bay Area left homeless after Maui fires
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Suzie Thibault, originally from El Sobrante, describes how her family escaped their burning Lahaina home and the devastating Maui fires as they now deal with an immense loss.

MAUI, Hawaii (KGO) -- A Bay Area native, living on Maui for the last ten years, lost everything in last week's fires.

Suzie Thibault's house in Lahaina was completely destroyed. The Lahaina resident who grew up in El Sobrante, along with her family are now dealing with an immense loss.

"I saw the smoke and then I was actually able to see tall flames and I was like oh s--- that's actually only a block and a half away," Thibault said.

That was her description when she walked down the street last week in the intense winds to see where the smell of smoke was coming from.

VIDEO: Bay Area native and Lahaina business owner shares loss, impact after fire

Suzie, her husband Junior, and her two daughters were all home as the situation worsened. Her husband even sprayed down their house with a hose.

"I ducked right in time and barely missed a piece of the roof going right over my head," Thibault said. "And then when I was trying to gather some more stuff Junior came back in the house and he was getting burned by embers just flying around."

The family of four ran to their car and maneuvered their way out of the area. Because of downed power lines they were routed towards Lahaina's Front Street but chose to go the wrong way on a one-way street to get out.

"Honestly I think that saved our lives because you saw it how many cars were stuck on Front Street," Thibault said. "At one moment I looked back at my daughter and she had one long tear streak down her face and the reason you could see it is because her face was covered in soot and ash so that hit me really hard."

They were able to get to safety despite the paint on the back of their car burning away. Days later her husband opened up about his feelings that day.

VIDEO: East Bay man loses contact with family in Hawaii amid Maui wildfires

"But my husband said that he gave himself to God and he thought we were all going to burn in the car and that he was okay with it because he was happy, that hurt, for him to have to think like that but that was the reality of it," Thibault said as she fought back tears. "I didn't realize, that's how close, that's how close we were. That's how close we were to not making it out."

So many have reached out to Thibault, who was with her daughter when ABC7 News spoke with her Tuesday, and her entire family. She says they lost nearly everything but they are alive and grateful as they stay at a friend's house in Maui.

"We are very fortunate to be able to have a bed to sleep on. I don't know how many people are still in their cars."

Thibault tells us that she's not sure what happens next, they're taking it one day at a time, but she just enrolled her 5-year-old in school on the other side of Maui and she starts on Thursday this week. Mental health counselors will be on hand and her daughter tells us, she can't wait to play on the playground.

Thibault says she was the secretary at Murphy Elementary in El Sobrante when she last lived here in the Bay Area. It was actually Bay Area residents who made us aware of her situation. If you'd like to help the family you can go to her GoFundMe page.

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