“The Red House” Stands Alone Amidst Devastating Hawaii Wildfires

by Deepti S9 months ago
Picture “The Red House” Stands Alone Amidst Devastating Hawaii Wildfires

A massive wildfire blazed through Lahaina, Maui, in early August 2023. The fire destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses except one lucky house next to the seashore. This two-story house on the seashore in Maui is nicknamed “The Red House of Hawaii.” The house with white walls earned its nickname from its red roof. The Red House’s story of surviving through the deadly fire is making rounds on the Internet. But how did the house remain intact while everything around it was charred? Keep on reading to know the answer.

The Maui Wildfire Has Been Labeled as the Deadliest One in the US in 100 Years!

After effects of wildfire in Maui.
After effects of wildfire in Maui. Image Credit: State Farm/Flickr.com

The wildfires that scorched Maui and Hawaii (the “Big Island”) on August 8th, 2023, left an imprint of devastation and tragedy. The town of Lahaina in West Maui was reduced to burning ruins, damaging billions of dollars worth of property and destroying around 3,000 houses. The fire destroyed or severely damaged historic Lahaina landmarks, including the Old Lahaina Courthouse, the Banyan Tree in the city’s center, Baldwin Home Museum, and presumably the Old Lahaina Prison. The town served as the capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom for the first part of the 1800s and is held in high regard by the Native Hawaiians.

The death toll from the fires has reached over 100, and over 1,000 people remain missing. Strong winds from Hurricane Dora started the fires, and the combination of dry conditions and high winds resulted in this havoc. Many people had to evacuate their homes and companies, which led to a housing crisis for the survivors of the fire. Hawaii Governor Josh Green (D) said that the Maui wildfire was the largest natural disaster the state had ever experienced. He also acknowledged that it would take a long time for Maui to recover from this adversity.

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The Red House Stood Alone on the Scorched Land of Maui

While the catastrophic wildfires in West Maui razed other nearby buildings, the Red House remarkably emerged unscathed. Not only that, but the garden of the seaside property survived as well. A snapshot of the event quickly went viral. Aerial photographs of the aftermath display a red-roofed property with an unblemished white exterior, seemingly untouched by the flames. Social media users are calling it “The Red House That Survived the Hawaii Wildfires.” Even the owners, Dora Atwater Millikin and her husband, Dudley Long Millikin III, were surprised by this fact. The owners were visiting their family in Massachusetts when the wildfire started in Maui.

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How Did this House Survive the Lahaina Fire? 

The survival of The Red House amidst the Hawaii wildfire has been a subject of speculation on the Internet. Some netizens even wonder if it is a Photoshopped image. However, the owners of the house have confirmed that the image is real and the house did indeed withstand the wildfire.

The century-old property was once the home of bookkeepers employed by the Pioneer Mill Co., a sugar plantation in Lahaina dating back to the 19th century. The owners stated that they had recently renovated the house and thought that the renovation could have been the reason behind the survival of The Red House in the Hawaii wildfire.

The owner, Atwater Millikin, stated that the house was made entirely of wood, and they had not taken any special fireproofing measures. However, working with the county and the local historical commission, they replaced the asphalt roof with a heavy-gauge metal one. They also paved the surrounding area around the house with stones up to the point where the roof hangs over the ground, i.e., around 36 to 40 inches.

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Additionally, they cleared vegetation to prevent termites from spreading to the wooden frame of the house. She said the only measure they took as a part of disaster management was installing hurricane ties. The entire renovation work was rather intended to restore old features of the house than make it fireproof.

Nonetheless, the experts think that roofs can be a major contributor to fire. Therefore, if the house had a wooden or thin corrugated metal roofing, it would’ve failed to withstand the wildfire. Moreover, acting as a promoter for the embers, the foliage around the house could also increase the risk of fire.

Apart from above, The red house is surrounded by a beach, a road, and an empty lot on three sides. All three sides are, therefore, much less likely to catch fire.

Experts also noticed another critical fire safety measure in this case: a less combustible under-deck space. The house had almost no combustibles under the sea-facing deck area. As a result, the risk of exposure to wind-blown embers was also reduced.

Irrespective of whatever worked out, one cannot deny that the odds were in the favor of The Red House on the very unfortunate day of the Maui wildfire.

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Picture “The Red House” Stands Alone Amidst Devastating Hawaii Wildfires
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