Oprah Winfrey was on the ground in Maui Thursday supporting the island’s residents amid wildfire evacuation efforts.
The mega-producer and media mogul was stopped by the BBC while handing out supplies at the War Memorial Stadium evacuation center, one place residents have relocated amid the ongoing wildfire blazes. Beginning on Tuesday, at least four major blazes have left more than 50 dead and displaced an untold number of residents, primarily around Lahaina, the former capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
While in the evacuation center, which is one of six currently open on the island, Winfrey — who has had a residence on Maui for more than a decade and owns a private farm that sits on more than 2,000 acres there, according to local outlet Hawaii News Now — was visibly shaken.
“It’s a little overwhelming, you know,” Winfrey said, taking a long pause. “But I’m really so pleased to have so many people, you know, supporting, and people are just bringing what they can and doing what they can.”
She went on to share that she had made more than one trip to the center and to major stores to help gather and distribute supplies for evacuees. “I came earlier, just to see what people needed, and then went shopping because often you make donations of clothes or whatever, and it’s not really what people need,” she said. “I actually went to Walmart and Costco and got pillows, shampoo, diapers, sheets, pillowcases.”
This is not the first time Winfrey has shown support for those on the island amid local wildfires. In 2019, fires swept across 10,000 acres of land, forcing thousands of people to be evacuated from parts of central Maui. Winfrey opened the private road to her ranch to help island residents get upcountry and away from the blazes. Then-Hawaii Gov. David Ige shared his appreciation on social media.
“A big mahalo to @Oprah for giving @mauicounty access to your private road for use to assist in the #Mauifire,” he wrote.
The August fires have resulted in at least 55 deaths as of Friday morning and ravaged the historic town of Lahaina with billions in damage expected. Current rescue efforts have included restoring power to all upcountry water pumping stations today, with water expected to be restored after lines are flushed. An oil tanker in North Kaʻanapali has also provided fuel for West Maui.
Donations of non-perishable food, bottled water, hygiene items, blankets, pillows, clothing, duffel bags, storage containers and baby products were being accepted Friday at the same War Memorial Complex that Oprah visited Thursday, according to local officials.
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