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South Jersey native in Maui shares story of survival after wildfires

South Jersey native in Maui shares story of living through devastating fires
South Jersey native in Maui shares story of living through devastating fires 02:16

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A South Jersey native living in Maui has shared her incredible story of survival. She and her family escaped as the wildfires engulfed their Lahaina neighborhood. 

Sadly, they have no home to go back to. 

RELATED: How to help those affected by the Maui wildfires

Kelly Williams is originally from Gloucester Township, Camden County. She and her husband moved to Lahaina about 10 years ago. 

While they lost everything in the fire, they said they're just grateful to be alive.


"For several seconds, I thought we were going to die," Williams said.  

Kelly and Kevin Williams, along with their 2 and 4-year-old daughters, were home in Lahaina when the wildfire arrived suddenly at their doorstep on Aug. 8. 

 "We didn't have time to grab anything," Kelly Williams said. "We ran out of our house barefoot with both our kids, carrying them like footballs." 

Smoke and ash filled the air as they drove away from the neighborhood. 

But they hit a wall of traffic as many scrambled to evacuate. 

"There were vehicles and people walking and driving up towards the fire into the wind ... telling them, 'Turn around. There's nowhere to go.' They were going to find loved ones. They were going to rescue whoever it was that was in a home or get them out, and there was no time," Kevin Williams said.  

The couple owned two houses, side by side. 

Once a lush paradise, now a scorched wasteland. 

"We're not allowed to go back because it's still, for lack of better term, a war zone," Kelly Williams said.  

The couple is staying at a friend's house while they work to find permanent housing. 

"What I'm struggling with the most right now is the trauma," Kelly Williams said. "I close my eyes, I'm getting about an hour and a half asleep every night, if that, and I close my eyes and I see flames. I see my 2-year-old covered in ash and it is the worst feeling as a mother that you could ever, ever have." 

Kelly Williams says the devastation is surreal, but she's trying to be strong for her children. 

"We're not exactly what the next step is, but we know that we need to be here with our community to rebuild, and we will. I'm confident of that," Kelly Williams said. 

Kelly Williams says she's blown away by how much people in the community are supporting each other during such a dark time. 

But she says people in Maui still need help. 

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