Some people who live and work around Kihei, Maui said they could smell the burnt smell of the fire from miles away and see ash falling to the ground.
One resident says he had been driving up country from his home in Kihei when he saw the dark grey smoke and the flames that lit up the side of the highway.
“You could actually feel the heat driving by initially and then they just closed it off, just smoke, covering the entire highway there,” said Jay Sabia, a Kihei resident.
He said he’s making plans to stay in Kahului.
Back in north Kihei, some people said they could smell the smoke from inside their shops and homes.
“It was just very thick in the air like that stench that you get when you’re near a bonfire,” said Kimberlee Chamberlain, who works in a bakery.
She says the power went out in their bakery, so they shut down. Shortly after that, they got the evacuation notice.
“I made sure that everybody had rides home to safety. Then I was kind of stepping outside and looking out there, and you can see just red all the way over north of us, was all you could see,” said Chamberlain.
The Maui Humane Society was one of the first places to be evacuated earlier Thursday afternoon.
“It was black smoke, and it was pretty thick. We could absolutely see the flames. They were close,” said Nancy Willis with the Maui Humane Society.
They moved over 200 animals, with the help of residents and other shelters. They set up at Maui High School where many workers and volunteers are taking care of the animals.
“We’re working on a generator, lights and cots. Lots of people are helping us. We’ve put that plan into place, just in case,” said Willis.
Over 600 people have checked into shelters at the Kihei Community Center, Kamalii Elementary School and War Memorial Gymnasium as of 9 p.m. Thursday night.