Kush Fine Art Gallery and Wyland Gallery – Laguna Beach fine art galleries with locations in Lahanina, Maui – were among more than 2,000 structures lost or damaged in what the National Fire Protection Association named the deadliest wildfire in the US for more than 100 years.
The Maui fires started Aug. 8 as a result of Hurricane Dora and were declared a natural disaster two days later. In Lahanina, about 2,170 acres caught fire. As of Wednesday, the blaze was 89 percent contained, according to Maui County.
“At this time, we are grateful for the safety of our staff, and we extend our deepest condolences to all the families who have lost their loved ones and their homes,” artist Vladimir Kush said in a release. “Maui has been my home for many years, and I am heartbroken to see the tragedies which have unfolded in these past few days. I know every little corner of Lahaina and consider it almost my hometown. I am grateful for the countless messages of support and best wishes from all our collectors and friends.”
Kush Fine Art Gallery in Lahaina opened in 2001 and expanded to locations in Las Vegas, Miami and Laguna Beach.
The Wyland Foundation, a nonprofit founded by well-known Laguna Beach marine artist and philanthropist Robert Wyland, reported that its Lahaina gallery on Front Street was also consumed by fire. The gallery had been a part of Lahaina for almost 40 years.
“The Wyland Gallery was completely destroyed, just like everything else, in and around Lahaina,” The Wyland Foundation President Steve Creech said. “Many, many businesses and friends of Wyland and our organization have lost everything in Lahaina.
The Foundation has plans to rebuild the Maui gallery and help others in the community cope with the devastating loss. Creech said the nonprofit organization encourages Laguna Beach to donate to the Maui United Way, one of the assistance groups they support. The Wyland Foundation and partners also created a Maui Forever t-shirt, available at www.wylandfoundation.org.
“We’ve raised over $14,000 for relief funds, with hopefully more to come, and we encourage any private individuals or business to match that,” Creech said.
Another business with Laguna roots, Maui’s KaiAloha Supply, was also destroyed in the fire. The company has printed 1,000 “Maui Strong” t-shirts for sale on its website, kaialohasupply.com. All proceeds will go to its employees in Maui.
The wildfires that ravaged Maui hit close to home for Laguna Beach, sparking memories of its 1993 fire, which scorched more than 16,000 acres and claimed about 366 homes, and last year’s Emerald Fire in North Laguna that spread across approximately 145 acres.
In a statement released on social media, Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said the Maui fires are “a reminder to all of us who live in a high-risk fire zone that we must continually look for ways to mitigate fire risk and be prepared to evacuate in the event of a fast-moving fire.”
“As a community that has experienced the terror and destruction of a devasting wildfire, our thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Maui,” Whalen said. “In particular, we extend our condolences to the families and friends of those whose lives have been lost. We pray for the safety of all residents, visitors and first responders still at risk and the fires to be brought under control soon.”