Standing outside the Lahaina burn zone, Jes Claydon could see the ruins of the rental home where she had lived for 13 years and raised her three children.
There is almost nothing to see except the sea glass jar outside the front door.
On Monday, officials are expected to begin lifting restrictions on access to the area, and Claydon hopes to collect the jars and any other souvenirs she may find.
“I wanted the freedom to be out there and absorb what was going on,” Claydon said. “Whatever I might find, even if it’s just those sea glass jars, I’m looking forward to taking it…it’s part of the home.”
Authorities will begin allowing the first residents and property owners to return to properties in burn zones, many of them for the first time since they were devastated by the deadliest U.S. wildfires in more than a century nearly seven weeks ago (August 8).
The prospect of returning home stirred strong emotions among residents as the wind-driven fire swept through Lahaina, the historic capital of the former Kingdom of Hawaii, trapping people trying to flee by car or on foot.
Some survivors jumped seawalls and hid in the waves as scalding black smoke blocked the sun.
The wildfires killed at least 97 people and destroyed more than 2,000 structures, mostly residential.
Clayden’s home is a one-story cinder block house painted a reddish brown, similar to the red earth of Lahaina. She could see the property from a National Guard blockade that kept unauthorized people out.
Some of the walls are still standing, she said, as are some green lawns.
The authorities have divided the burned area into 17 areas and dozens of subdivisions.The first resident or property owner allowed to re-enter will be allowed to return for supervised visits on Monday and Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the area known as Kaniau Road in north Lahaina. Zone 1C
Those who qualify can pick up passes in advance Friday through Sunday.
Maui Emergency Management Agency interim administrator Darryl Oliveira said officials also want to make sure they have space and privacy to reflect or grieve as they see fit.
“They anticipate that some people will just want to stay for a few minutes and say goodbye in some way to their property,” Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said last week.
“Others may want to stay for a few hours. They’ll be very helpful.”
Those returning will receive water, shade, washing stations, portable toilets, medical and mental health care, and transportation assistance if needed.
The nonprofit is also providing personal protective equipment, including masks and coveralls.
Officials warn that the ash may contain asbestos, lead, arsenic or other toxins.
While some residents like Claydon may be eager to find jewelry, photos or other mementos of their lives before the fire, officials are urging them not to sift through the ashes for fear that the toxic dust kicked up could endanger their lives or the lives of their neighbors downwind .