Woman Who Ran Through Burning Maui Field Dies

Laurie Allen, who escaped Lahaina's wildfire 7 weeks ago, succumbed to her injuries Friday
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 2, 2023 10:45 AM CDT
Woman Who Ran Through Burning Maui Field Dies
Flames engulf Wainee Street in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Aug. 8.   (Matthew Thayer/The Maui News via AP, File)

A woman who escaped Hawaii's Lahaina wildfire by running through a flaming field has died after spending more than seven weeks in a hospital burn unit. Laurie Allen died Friday at Straub Medical Center in Honolulu, according to a GoFundMe page set up for her and her husband, Perry Allen, per the AP. "Laurie slipped away peacefully. Her heart was tired, and she was ready," her sister-in-law, Penny Allen Hood, wrote on the website. Allen's husband, two brothers, a sister, and another relative were at her side. Allen was among at least 98 people killed by the fire Aug. 8 that devastated historic Lahaina on the west coast of Maui. The fire was the deadliest in the United States in more than a century and destroyed 2,200 buildings, most of them homes.

The fire began when strong winds appeared to cause a Hawaiian Electric power line to fall and ignite dry brush and grass. After being declared contained, the fire flared up and raced through the town. Perry Allen, an artist, lost a lifetime of work when their home burned, according to Hood. He was working 15 miles away when the fire hit. Laurie Allen, a physical therapist's administrative assistant who worked from home, was home when the fire erupted. She fled with others in a vehicle, but a fallen, flaming tree blocked their way. Allen got out of the car and fled 100 yards across a field of burning grass. A policeman and fireman met her, and she was taken to an emergency shelter.

At the hospital, Allen endured infections and a series of operations, including skin grafts, and was brought into and out of consciousness. She had difficulty communicating but at one point raised hopes by being able to wiggle her toes when asked. Her prognosis worsened in recent days, however, and Hood posted Thursday that "the battle to repair and rebuild Laurie's earthly body" would soon be over. Allen was taken off life support Friday. "This ordeal touched numerous lives. For me, it was realizing how many shared concerns for Laurie—people from her childhood, her family, work colleagues, church friends, and clients at the PT Clinic she worked at," Hood wrote Friday. "This is a reminder that we never know how much our smile or even a simple greeting can leave an impression on others."

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Some Lahaina residents whose homes burned began returning to the devastated town last week. Authorities urged them not to sift through the ashes for belongings out of concern they could stir up dust containing asbestos, lead, arsenic, or other toxins. Returnees were given water, shade, washing stations, portable toilets, medical and mental health care, and transportation help. Nonprofit groups also were offering personal protective equipment, including masks and coveralls. Nearly 8,000 displaced residents are living in hotels and other accommodations around Maui.

(Read more Hawaii wildfires stories.)

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