Throughout January, veteran-owned Fire Dept. Coffee is donating a portion of its coffee and shirt sales to support the 18 Maui firefighters who lost their homes during the Aug. 8 fires.
For each purchase with the Fire Dept. Coffee Club, $2 will be donated, and for each purchase with the Fire Dept. Shirt Club, $5 will given. The money will be given to the Hawaiʻi Fire Fighters Association, which will ensure the Maui firefighters have all they need each day while they work to rebuild their lives.
In collaboration with the Hawaiʻi Fire Fighters Association, the Illinois-based coffee company created Aloha Coffee, a special Kona blend “with a sweetness and nuttiness that crash together like the Pe’ahi waves,” and a corresponding T-shirt designed to celebrate the spirit of the islands and the iconic status for epic surf.
On its website, the coffee company praised the Maui firefighters. It said: “From the moment the first call came in, the task of containing and controlling this extreme, wind-driven fire fell totally on the firefighters from the County of Maui Department of Fire & Public Safety who were battling separate blazes on different parts of the island.
“Days after the devastating fires occurred, they would later be joined by and receive recovery support from firefighters from neighboring islands, other Fire Fighting Divisions from the mainland, emergency crews from federal agencies, the Department of Forestry and Wildlife. Other federal and state agencies along with local volunteers assisted with supplies and distribution.”
Bobby Lee, president of the Hawaiʻi Fire Fighters Association, said: “Being a state made up of islands separated by water, each fire department is on their own to address their emergency incidents. Maui island firefighters were the only ones available to respond to control these fires with no help from the rest of the state.
“These fires impacted everyone. Electricity and communication lines were down. The public in the worst fire areas couldn’t contact their families outside of their ravaged communities. Our concern is always about our firefighters safety. We had heard some horrific stories of what our firefighters were faced with.”
In one perilous instance, a crew was trapped in their fire truck near Front Street in Lahaina where the blaze was so hot that the truck windshield started melting. Firefighters abandoned the truck, sheltering behind it and soaking themselves in water for protection.
One young firefighter spotted a nearby Skeeter truck. He hopped in and sped away, crashing through fences and rock walls creating an escape route until he made his way clear and found the Maui Police Department directing traffic.
He told the police of the situation and then borrowed one of their SUVs, returned to his trapped crew and rescued them.
“That’s the level of heroism that these men and women demonstrated throughout the fires,” the website said.
Some of the firefighters and their familes have bounced around, staying with friends and relatives. Some are living in RVs donated from the mainland. Others are finding their own solutions. Every day is a challenge, and rebuilding could take years.
“The funds we raise with Fire Department Coffee will go to support necessities and housing for many of them,” said Daisy Canite, Communications Director for the Hawaiʻi Fire Fighters Association. “After a while, you want to return to normal, to your own space.”
Funds can also help provide the daily essentials that make life easier for the displaced firefighters and their families.