Retired mailman and Vietnam veteran Thomas Leonard lived in the historic former capital of Hawaii for 44 years until this week, when a rapidly moving wildfire burned down his apartment, melted his Jeep and forced him to spend four terrifying hours hiding from the flames behind a seawall.“I’ve got nothing left,” Leonard said Thursday as he sat on an inflatable mattress outside a shelter for those who fled the blaze that decimated the town of Lahaina. “I’m a disabled vet, so now I’m a homeless vet,” he added with a small laugh.

The fire that tore across the coastal Maui town and caught many by surprise has already claimed dozens of lives — a toll expected to climb — and burned more than 1,000 buildings. It has turned a centuries-old hamlet beloved by travelers and locals alike into a charred, desolate landscape

The devastation has resonated worldwide in part because tourists from around the globe flock to Maui to enjoy its white sand beaches, including many who stop to visit the old whaling village and capital of the former Hawaiian kingdom. Thousands fled Maui after the fires rousted them from their resort hotels and sent them scrambling from their sun chairs on Tuesday. But for thousands of people who call Lahaina home, there is no flight to catch and no home to return to. They’ve simply lost everything.On Front Street, Lahaina’s main thoroughfare, Deborah Leoffler lost a home that has been in her family since 1945. Five generations stayed there, starting with her grandfather, who was a Lahaina police sergeant. Her youngest son had been planning to move home from the mainland to live there

She evacuated so quickly she left her debit cards on her nightstand and now can’t access her bank account.“But I still have my family, and that’s what counts,” she said.Myrna Ah Hee’s home is in one of the few subdivisions in Lahaina spared destruction. But she and her husband, Abraham, haven’t been able to find his brother, a Vietnam veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who has been living in Lahaina’s homeless shelter

The Ah Hees spent Thursday scouring evacuation shelters across the island from Lahaina to see if he might have made it out.Her extended family was hit badly: Her parents lost their home, as did her son, one of her uncles and a cousin. Her son-in-law was staying in a house that had long been in her husband’s family, but that burned down too.She said those born and raised in Lahaina like her and her husband have to “stand up and make it what it was.”“Where do you begin?” she asked rhetorically. “It’s town we have to bring back — but also families, classmates, friends.”

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