GEORGIA (WRBL)— Following Hawaii’s fatal wildfires, numerous disaster response teams made their way to support the island including the American Red Cross. The state’s death toll from the wildfires now stands at 111 with a majority of the victims yet to be identified.

Georgia Region Communicator Evan Peterson arrived in Maui last Friday, he recounts the story of one man who witnessed the Maui wildfires.

“I was talking with one gentleman on our way out here to Maui from Honolulu and he was telling me about how he was in Lahaina on a boat, watching his harbor, watching his neighbors, the properties be destroyed by this fire. He talked about an amazing sense of helplessness. He said this is an area this harbor is typically packed with people. Whenever he comes back to port, it’s always swarming with people. Fortunately, this harbor was empty at the time… but that was what was so unsettling to him,” Peterson told WRBL. “It was quiet. The fire was raging. He was on the boat, helpless. He couldn’t do anything. And we’ve talked about that.”

Peterson is one of six Georgians with the American Red Cross in Hawaii. His job as a communicator in Maui is to facilitate the flow of information from the American Red Cross to public information officers, the general public, and internal operations.

“The flow of information is vital to our success and to the safety well-being of the residents we are trying to help. This is challenging mainly because of the fact, specifically here on Maui, this fire devastated the infrastructure. I’m not just talking about people’s homes, people’s workplaces, grocery stores,” Peterson explained. “I’m talking about it destroyed roads. I’m talking about it destroyed cell towers, satellites that we use to communicate and just share signals.”

He says the Georgians currently in Hawaii are filling a number of positions.

“I’m very proud of the Georgians that are out here. They are serving at every level of the operation from someone working in a shelter and doing that front line work immediately engaging and interacting with people to upper levels of management on the operations,” Peterson said.

Executive director for the Red Cross of Southwest Georgia Adelaide Kirk has been deployed with the American Red Cross numerous times. From Columbus, she emphasizes the work being done in Hawaii.

“90% of our workforce is volunteer, and that is something that we take seriously… I’ve been deployed a good bit, so I have seen it where you walk in and you see someone who has lost everything and it can be tough on your own psyche to see that day after day after day,” Kirk said. “Working 12- and 15-hour days just to give back to the people they don’t even know and in this case, aren’t even in their backyard. They’re all the way across the country. It can be very hard on our workers, and we do our very, very best and support them while they’re there.”

Kirk says even Georgians back home have answered the call to action in supporting Hawaii. One Columbus resident made her way to the Southwest region’s main office this week to see how she could help.

“She was asking, ‘what should we collect?’ And our answer was, please don’t. Please collect money. $10 can make all the difference,” Kirk said. “If the generosity of the American public collectively, at $10 a head, can make a huge difference.”

Peterson and Kirk say relief efforts in Hawaii are in the early stages, their priority is to make sure residents impacted have food, shelter, and clothing.

This is going to be something that doesn’t take days, it doesn’t take weeks. We’re talking months. We’re talking years. This has changed people’s lives forever. And we are committed to being there and helping them through this process.”

Georgians back home can help relief efforts in Hawaii by supporting the American Red Cross.

Donations can be made online at, those wishing to donate can also text ‘Hawaii’ to 90999 to make an automatic $10 donation to the Hawaii Wildfire designation, or checks can be dropped off at either of the local offices:

  • Columbus: 6501 Veterans Parkway, Suite 3B
  • Fort Moore: 7200 Anderson Street, Bldg. 482

The American Red Cross assists in more than 60,000 disasters each year. Peterson and Kirk remind Georgians to be prepared.

“We’re still in hurricane season. We still need to get ready for this back home. So, for those people, I would say make sure you’re preparing now for the disasters that may be coming to your doorstep,” Peterson advised.

Information can be found on The American Red Cross also has a free emergency app with information on how to make a kit, how to create a plan, and how to stay informed during a disaster.

“Most people don’t think of wildfires happening in Hawaii. It just goes to show in this day and age with the climate crisis and the way things have changed, we all need to be prepared because we never know what can happen where we live,” Kirk said. “So, you need to be prepared for what to do in an emergency.”