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‘It was pitch black': Woman's harrowing escape from Maui wildfire

Seven hours in the water, clinging to a wall as cars explode around her. A woman is sharing her harrowing fight to survive a fast-moving inferno on Hawaii’s Maui Island.

Annelise Cochran says within minutes, she had to flee her apartment in Lahaina and race to the ocean.

Cochran says it was the sound of dozens of personal home smoke alarms going off that alerted her to the intense flames headed toward her Lahaina apartment.

“There were embers that were the size of small boulders, that were flying through the air,” she said.

Cochran told NBC Bay Area that she grabbed a few belongings and her pet minah bird chickadee and jumped in her car.

“And it was pitch black. I couldn’t see where I was driving. I had my headlights on. l couldn’t even see one inch in front of the windshield,” she said.

But Cochran didn’t get far. She hit gridlock as people abandoned their cars and tried to outrun the flames.

“I grabbed my things. I left my bird behind in the car, which will forever break my heart and I jumped over the seawall,” she said.

For hours, Cochran and dozens of others clung to a rock wall or waded in the ocean, including 19-year-old Noah Tomkinson, his 13-year-old brother Milo and their mom.

Cochran, who has asthma, says she could barely breathe in the thick black smoke and then, things got worse.

“When the cars started exploding, it went off one by one. It was incredibly scary, and I could feel the ground shake,” she said.

Sadly, Cochran’s elderly neighbor did not survive.

“He passed away in the fire,” she said.

After several hours in the cold water, the Tomkinsons and Cochran were finally rescued. Now, she’s living in a shelter and taking on a new fight: to improve the emergency alert system

“We should’ve gotten an alert,” Cochran said. “We should have had a text or something telling us to evacuate. Now, people were dying in front of me and that was horrifying.”

Cochran says at one point, a frantic tourist jumped in her car and rode with her a short way, but later panicked and jumped out and ran. She still doesn’t know if he survived the fire.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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