The owner of a red wooden house in Lahaina, Maui, that went viral after being the only home in the neighborhood to survive the wildfires has revealed the unexpected reason why it remained completely unscathed.
This week, the BBC reported that at least 114 people have been confirmed dead after devastating wildfires ravaged Hawaii earlier this month, and thousands of structures have been reduced to ash.
Though, one red wooden house is still standing, with gobsmacking aerial images of the unscathed property going viral last week.
Conspiracy theories about why just one home was spared have been going around social media, however, the owner of the house, Dora Atwater Millikin, said there is a reasonable explanation – even if it is unexpected.
Dora says the home went through a recent renovation, though, none of this was aimed at surviving such a disaster.
“It’s a 100% wood house so it’s not like we fireproofed it or anything,” she told the Los Angeles Times.
Dora and her husband Dudley truly did not consider the possibility of wildfires when they decided to renovate the 100-year-old house that they’ve owned since 2020.
“We love old buildings, so we just wanted to honor the building,” Dora said, adding: “And we didn’t change the building in any way — we just restored it.”
Dora did reveal that she and Dudley made one renovation decision that may have inadvertently helped prevent the house from burning down – and this was replacing the asphalt roof with heavy-gauge metal.
She was told that during the fire, “there were pieces of wood — 6, 12 inches long — that were on fire and just almost floating through the air with the wind and everything” and that “they would hit people’s roofs, and if it was an asphalt roof, it would catch on fire. And otherwise, they would fall off the roof and then ignite the foliage around the house.”
Fortunately for Dora and Dudley’s home, they had unknowingly improved its chance of survival – lining the ground with stones and cutting down shrubbery surrounding the home. And it was this random, unexpected detail – meant to prevent termite infestations – that ensured the home would survive the fires.
As for what they’ll be doing once they return to Maui, Dora and Dudley said that they’re planning to open the home to their friends and neighbors who lost their homes.
Dora said: “We lost neighbors in this, and neighbors lost everything. So many people have lost everything, and we need to look out for each other and rebuild. Everybody needs to help rebuild.”
How lucky that Dora and Dudley’s home survived the fires. It’s lovely to see them using this opportunity to support and help out their local community.