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Maui fires damage historic banyan tree and Lahaina landmarks

The banyan tree has been an iconic part of Lahaina town’s historic Front Street. The Maui wildfires have damaged it and other landmarks.
Maui fires damage historic banyan tree and Lahaina landmarks
Posted at 1:36 PM, Aug 10, 2023

"It's true, we've lost historic Lahaina town."

Those were the emotional words of Lisa H. Paulson, the executive director of the Maui Hotel and Lodging Association as she spoke to Scripps News this week. 

And for 150 years, a magnificent tree known as the banyan tree of Lahaina town's historic Front Street stood as a landmark, bringing familiarity and shade to the historic part of town. 

It rose up to over 60 feet above ground and was anchored to the ground with multiple trunks over almost an acre of land. 

Historic Lahaina on the island of Maui has suffered damage that's unimaginable for the residents there and the visitors who all love the island. Flames engulfed multiple parts of the island this week. 

The banyan tree has been a symbol of history for the island, and its past. The tree takes up nearly an entire city block. It's now thought to be lost. 

SEE MORE: Maui wildfire leaves 36 dead, hundreds of buildings destroyed

Paulson said some had to "literally jump in their boats" to evacuate and "save their livelihood."

It's been a shocking trauma for residents on the island, seeing major parts of their lives up in flames. 

The hope is that the historic tree, along with many other parts of the island, are just singed, and that the badly burned areas can recover as quickly as possible. 

Lahaina, once Hawaii's royal capital, was graced by the majestic banyan tree which was considered to be a marvel worthy of a special visit. 

In 1873 the tree was only eight feet tall as it was planted as a way to memorialize a Protestant missionary trip to the area around a half-century before that. 

Officials were hopeful about the tree's recovery. 

"It’s said that if the roots are healthy, it will likely grow back," officials said in a message posted online. They said it does look burned. 

Wildfires, powered by strong winds over Maui, had killed at least 36 people as of Thursday, caused power outages and blazed through towns ruining parts of the island's communications infrastructure. 

@scrippsnews Historic landmarks on the island of Maui - including the Waiola Church and a 150-year-old Banyan tree in Lahaina - have been destroyed by recent wildfires. Officials say more than 250 structures have been damaged. #Lahaina #Maui #wildfires ♬ original sound - Scripps News

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