Twisted and charred aluminum mixed with shards of glass still lines the floor of the industrial warehouse where Victoria Martocci once operated her scuba diving business. After a wildfire tore through West Maui, all that remained of her 36-foot boat, the Extended Horizons II, were a pair of engines.
That was six months ago, but Ms. Martocci and her husband, Erik Stein, who are weighing whether to rebuild the business, which he started in 1983, said the same questions filled their thoughts. “What will this island look like?” Ms. Martocci asked. “Will things ever be close to being the same?”
In early August, what began as a brush fire burst into the town of Lahaina, a popular tourist destination, all but leveling it, destroying large swaths of West Maui and killing at least 100 people in the nation’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century.
The local economy remains in crisis.
Rebuilding the town, according to some estimates, will cost more than $5 billion and take several years. And tense divisions still remain over whether Lahaina, whose economy long relied almost entirely on tourism, should consider a new way forward.
Debates about the ethics of traveling to decimated tourist destinations played out on social media after an earthquake in Morocco and wildfires in Greece last year. But the situation is particularly dire for Maui.
State and federal officials scrambled last summer to find shelter for thousands of residents who had lost their homes, relocating people to local hotels and short-term rentals where many still live, often sharing a wall with vacationing families whose realities feel far from their own. Other displaced residents live in tents on the beach, and some restaurant owners pivoted to working out of food trucks.
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