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‘Her heart was tired’: Woman who ran through Maui wildfire to reach safety succumbs to injuries

‘Her heart was tired’: Woman who ran through Maui wildfire to reach safety succumbs to injuries

Eric Lagatta
 USA TODAYplayShow CaptionHide Caption#videoDetailsToggle{color:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));cursor:pointer;display:inline-block;font-family:var(–sans-serif,sans-serif);font-size:var(–type-7);font-weight:var( –font-weight-bold,900);line-height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);margin-bottom:-8px}#vdt_hide{margin-bottom:10px}.vdt-flex[hidden]{display:none}.vdt-svg{fill:var( –color-dove-gray,rgba(0,0,0,.6));height:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px);width:var(–spacer-twentyfour,24px)}Hawaii investigates unsolicited land offers in LahainaHawaii Gov. Josh Green said his administration has opened several investigations into people who have allegedly made unsolicited offers for property in the fire-stricken Maui town of Lahaina in violation of a new emergency order. (Sep. 1)AP

Laurie Allen knew that if she had any hope of surviving the wildfire raging across Hawaii, she would have to run through a wall of flame that blocked her path to safety.

On that fateful day in August, Allen and her neighbors had been watching the fire from afar before a sudden shift in winds brought the blaze bearing down upon them. Though she attempted to evacuate in her vehicle, it wasn’t long until a tree blocked the road, forcing Allen to make a drastic choice.

As flames surrounded her, Allen decided to abandon her car and run head-on into them, covering about 100 yards through a field of burning grass before she emerged onto a nearby road, where first-responders provided aid and raced her to a burn center in Honolulu. But after seven grueling weeks — a timespan filled with painful surgeries, skin grafts and prayerful appeals for her recovery — Allen died.

Allen, whose family meticulously documented her journey on a GoFundMe page, is now among at least 98 people killed in the devastating fire that in August spread through Lahaina on the west coast of Maui. Thousands of people were left frantically searching for safety among the flames, which claimed in its wake towns and homes on its way to becoming one of the nation’s deadliest such disasters.

“Laurie slipped away peacefully,” her sister-in-law, Penny Allen Hood, wrote on the website. “Her heart was tired, and she was ready. Laurie is out of her pain.”

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Cause of fire remains unclear

Nearly two months later, the cause of the deadly wildfire in Maui that leveled a historic town, destroyed at least 2,200 buildings, and reduced ancestral landmarks to ashes remains unknown.

Downed Hawaiian Electric power lines caused an early-morning fire, but CEO Shelee Kimura has claimed the devastating blaze that overtook parts of the island came from a second flame ignited hours after the first fire was put out.

Considered the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century, the Lahaina fire killed some residents trapped in their cars, forcing others to jump into the ocean or run for safety.

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Allen’s husband ‘in the agony of grief’

The fundraiser for Laurie Allen and her husband Perry Allen initially began as a means to help the couple find new living accommodations after the fire claimed the home they had been renting for 10 years.

Perry, an artist, also lost a lifetime of work when their home burned to rubble, according to the GoFundMe. He was working 15 miles from Lahaina on Aug. 8 when he realized he’d lost communication with his wife.

The road back to Lahaina was closed, so he couldn’t get back to Laurie, who worked from home as an administrative assistant for a physical therapist. Though cell phone reception was limited, Perry was able to find some service and see a message from the medical center that simply said: “We think we have your wife. She is being flown to the Burn Center on Oahu.”

At the hospital, Laurie endured infections and a series of operations and skin grafts. Though she struggled to communicate and only infrequently regained limited consciousness, she at one point inspired some hope when she wiggled her toes when prompted.

In the early days, her devoted husband remained not far from her side. And despite a slew of donations of clothing and money, Perry chose to continue wearing the same shirt, shorts and flip flops, signifying “an emotional need to cling to his only possessions,” his sister wrote.

As Allen’s prognosis deteriorated in recent days, it became clear she wouldn’t survive and the family chose to take her off life support.

“Perry is deep in the agony of grief,” Allen Hood wrote. “Please pray for Perry as he seeks answers for his future.”

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Contributing: The Associated Press

Eric Lagatta covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach him at

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