Hawaii fires: How Pinky’s famous truck saved lives in Lahaina

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World
Lynette “Pinky” Iverson

Lynette “Pinky” Iverson has been a fixture in the Hawaiian town of Lahaina for years. Locals know her for her extravagantly self-decorated pickup truck and her chihuahua named Tiny.

That truck became a lifeline for many as she loaded “at least a dozen” people onto the back of it and fled town on Tuesday as the wildfires spread.

“I got to my truck and it was already engulfed in flames around the tires,” she told BBC News from the War Memorial Stadium emergency shelter, recalling how her ordeal began.

“I tried to save people, but for some, I wasn’t able to,” she adds.

On Friday, state officials confirmed the death toll had reached 67, making it officially the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii’s history.

The fire arrived as she was spraying her building with water, in the hopes of preventing falling embers from igniting it. But despite her efforts, she was helpless as she witnessed her own home beginning to catch fire.

“One lady didn’t want to come out. Another man was screaming help,” she said of the hectic scene.

“By that time we were engulfed in the black, black smoke,” she said.

She was only able to grab her car keys and Tiny before fleeing.

Lynette "Pinky" Iverson's dog Tiny in a shelter

BBC News

As we spoke, I noticed something crawling around in the bedding only inches away from her dog. Without knowing what it was, I use my notebook to fling it into the ground, where she squashed it with her purple cowboy boot.

It was a centipede, which is venomous, she and other evacuees in the shelter told me. Tiny could have died if stung, she added.

Ms Iverson was rattled by the ordeal and frustrated about the cleanliness of the donated sheets at the shelter.

Without her phone, she says she’s hopeful that her brother in Nevada will see that she spoke to the BBC and finally learn that she is safe.

Ms Iverson lived in her locally famous truck for six years before finally being accepted into a housing community in Lahaina for the disabled or elderly.

Now in her 70s, she’s hopeful that she’ll be able to find a place to live once again.

Steve Strode, a former commercial diver who has lived in Lahaina for 10 years, says he is haunted by the neighbours he was forced to leave behind as he ran for his life.

Speaking from his bed in the same shelter, he says there was one disabled man in his apartment complex who needed assistance from multiple people in order to be able to flee.

But there was no time to gather a group to help, he says. “I had to go around him,” he recalls.

He and his neighbour survived by using their bicycles to reach temporary safety at the Safeway. The men, both in their 60s, had to cycle through flames that at times were as tall as 10ft (3 meters) high

Wildfires on Hawaii’s Maui island, where the historic town of Lahaina is located, and Big Island began on Tuesday night. Hurricane winds and dry weather helped fuel the flames. causing rapid spread.

Thousands have been left homeless by the disaster and Maui has six shelters now in operation.

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