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March 08, 2024 3 min read

In the early morning hours on August 8, 2023, a fire broke out just inland from Lahaina, on the Hawaiian Island of Maui, and driven by hurricane winds, it quickly incinerated over 2000 homes, stores, and historical buildings.  At least a hundred residents lost their lives, with dozens more missing who will likely never be found.  In the wake of the tragedy, donations poured in from all over the world to help those who lost their homes and loved ones.  One of the most immediate needs was shelter, and through a series of coincidences, Sonostar was able to donate five 6-meter domes and help ReubuildMaui.org to assemble them where they were needed most.                                                                                                                                           

Alfy Basurto's Lahaina home, before and after

The Executive Director for RebuildMaui.org is Alfonso (Alfy) Basurto, an islander who has lived in Lahaina for the past 9 years.  He has run several businesses, which included an electric bicycle rental company. 

All the bikes were burned in the fire, along with his home, tools and everything else  he owned.  He was able to get his family out just in time, along with his carsAlfy called his friend Sandy, on another island, and asked him if he knew where to find some temporary shelters, like glamping domes.  Sandy replied, “Well, coincidentally, my next-door neighbor runs a company that supplies those domes all over the world.”   Sandy put Alfy together with Jon Dietz, Sonostar’s owner, who quickly got five 6-meter domes and covers palletized and put on the next boat to Maui from Los Angeles. "It doesn't really matter which island we're on", said Dietz, "We all need to help each other out when tragedy hits."             


Alfy Basurto and Jon Dietz in front of a finished dome

The domes arrived a week later, and Dietz flew over to Maui the next day to help with the builds.

The first dome was erected very close to where the fire started, in Lahainaluna, just inland from the burned-out community.  An old baseball field was being used as a drop-off location for relief resources and Alfy had received permission to put up a dome to help protect the supplies.  As soon as we started laying out the hubs and struts, locals started volunteering to help, and the dome went up quickly in a little over 3 hours.  

Starting the first dome                                                                             

An hour into the build, a community meeting was held at the same location, using a generator to power the PA system.   One-by-one, residents shared their stories and recounted the missteps that led to the devastating tragedy.  Red Cross and FEMA had quickly come on to the scene, followed by relief organizations like Samaritan’s Purse.  All the residents were promised cash to buy essentials and the luxury hotels all made rooms available for residents who had lost their homes.  There were also homeless people living close by, and they were included with free lodging and meals.

              Community Meeting during the dome buiild

The second day, another dome was built at Olowalu, just south of Lahaina, also to house relief supplies.  On the third day, a dome was built in the burn zone near one of the few homes that was still standing.  The residents of that home had taken on the feeding of dozens of their neighbors, but ash was getting in their food, and they needed a dome to protect the food from contamination.

In the burn zone

That dome was later repurposed for more supplies at Lahainaluna, and then the residents asked if one of the remaining domes could be used as a church. A crew came together and built it the next day.  After all, they're 'multipurpose' domes, right?

Team picture in front of the Oluwalu dome

There is still a lot of pain and loss in Lahaina.  It will take years to rebuild and it will not be the same as it was before.  Most of the historical buildings were completely destroyed.  But there is something very special in Lahaina that can never be taken away.  There is a wonderful  spirit of community, maybe best defined by the word, 'Aloha', which brings people together as an extended family and shares with others whatever is needed.

Sonostar is thankful for the opportunity  we were given to help, and we wish all our new friends there all God's blessings as Lahaina and Maui rebuild their lives and their homes.  Donations can be made to RebuildMaui.org.  

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