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Maui fires: Resident describes jumping into ocean to escape flames that overtook his home, neighborhood in Hawaii

LAHAINA, Hawaii — Maui resident John Singer describes himself as a fighter – not one to give up easily. When the wildfire began sweeping through his neighborhood, he was not about to give up without a fight.

“I sat up on top of the roof and I battled the fire for about three hours,” Singer said.

Armed with a garden hose, he was determined to douse the flames to save his home. But the blaze was just too strong.

“I couldn’t do it anymore because I didn’t have any protection, respiratory stuff on,” he said.

He thought to himself, if only I had a fire hydrant and a bigger hose, I could really put some water down on the house and probably save it.

“Me being a fighter, I just sat there and fought and fought and fought, and then I said, I have to move,” he recalled.

MORE: Track wildfires across Hawaii with this interactive map

Singer said at the end, he saved himself by running toward the ocean and jumping into the water.

“I ran with a lot of heat on my back, and I ran to the left of here, we live very close to the ocean, and I ran to the ocean and I just gave in,” he said.

After escaping the inferno, he turned around to look back at his home.

“Devastation – everything gone,” he described. “There’s just nothing left.”

“From the houses to the markets to the businesses, it’s like a nuclear bomb went off here. There’s nothing left,” Singer said with tears in his eyes.

PHOTOS: Heartbreaking images show devastation from Maui wildfires

Wildfire wreckage is seen Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023, in Lahaina, Hawaii.

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

Fueled by a dry summer and strong winds from a passing hurricane, the fire started Tuesday and took Maui by surprise, racing through parched growth covering the island.

County officials on Thursday said at least 53 people had died, making it the deadliest in the U.S. in five years.

A search of the devastation on Thursday revealed a wasteland of obliterated neighborhoods and landmarks charred beyond recognition.

A flyover of historic Lahaina showed entire neighborhoods that had been a vibrant vision of color and island life reduced to gray ash. Block after block was nothing but rubble and blackened foundations, including along famous Front Street, where tourists shopped and dined just days ago.

Front Street is the main thoroughfare to get out of the region. The roadway was filled with shells of burned out cars. There was a nightmarish traffic jam to get out of town. But when the flames began to overwhelm the roads, drivers abandoned their vehicles and ran for their lives.

Boats in the harbor were also scorched and smoke hovered over the town, which dates to the 1700s and is the biggest community on the island’s west side.

MORE: How to help Maui fire victims from afar – Organizations and efforts underway

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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