Randy Dadez is just grateful to have a place for his family to stay as he works to piece together their broken lives after the Aug. 8 wildfire.

Just days before the Dadez family is supposed to vacate their FEMA-funded condo, Randy Dadez receives a text message: He and his family can stay put for another month. 

It’s the family’s third such 11th-hour extension on the heels of an inevitable move out of the three-bedroom luxury condo they’ve called home for the last three and a half months.

The news crashes over him like a wave of relief.

A fourth generation Lahaina resident, Randy Dadez dreams of rebuilding his childhood home that burned down in the fire. He sees it as a family safety net so that his children will always have a place on Maui to live. (Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2023)

What happened, Randy learns, is that the owner of the condo at the Honua Kai Resort agreed to extend their contract with FEMA to keep the Dadezes in place through the end of February. Meanwhile, a company contracted by FEMA is still working to move the family out of the vacation resort and into longer-term residential housing.

The family’s relocation is part of a greater effort to shift Lahaina fire victims out of hotels and into neighborhoods. The federal agency responsible for housing thousands of displaced Lahaina fire survivors vowed last month to find the Dadezes a five-bedroom house somewhere in Lahaina. The agency made similar promises to hundreds of other families. 

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Randy says he was told that his family would be able to stay in the house until February of next year. As for any specifics about where the house is located, he’s still in the dark. All he knows is it’s in Lahaina and it has five bedrooms — a much larger footprint than the Dadez family has ever occupied before.

An employee from Lima Charlie, a California-based company hired by FEMA to wrangle its housing program for displaced Lahaina residents, mentioned the house’s street address in a voicemail on Randy’s phone. But Randy couldn’t make out the street name in the recording, and the Lima Charlie employee hasn’t returned his calls for details.

“I don’t mind, I’m not worried — not now — because now I know we can stay here,” Randy says of the condo he shares with his family of six, plus his eldest daughter’s live-in boyfriend. 

Randy and Marilou Dadez are struggling to regain a sense of stability since the Aug. 8 wildfire destroyed their rental home. On a recent Sunday morning they celebrated Marilou Dadez’ 42nd birthday in their FEMA-funded hotel room alongside their three daughters Rianna, 21, Heart, 19, and Samara, 13, and their 9-year-old son Kobe. Rianna’s boyfriend, 20-year-old Ramon Agdeppa, lives with the family and is seated far left. (Bryan Berkowitz/Civil Beat/2023)

The three-bedroom condo, with its oceanfront balcony, multiple televisions and lavish kitchen, has proven to be a comfortable place for the family to begin to recover from the fire that incinerated their two-bedroom rental home and launched their lives into chaos. 

Before that, the family bounced around between a church and two FEMA-funded hotel rooms. Both of the hotel rooms lacked kitchens and outlawed cooking appliances, which meant the family had to rely on charitable meals or spend money on take-out.

“Sometimes I catch myself thinking I can’t believe it’s gone,” Randy says of the two-bedroom rental house on Kaniau Road where his family lived before the fire burned it down. “But then, like a minute later, I just realize I’m still blessed. We’re all okay. It’s hard but I’m just grateful we have help, we have people that care.”

The Dadez family's rental property on Kaniau Road in Lahaina, pictured center left of the home with the larger green pool, burned down in the Aug. 8 fire. (Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2023)
The Dadez family’s rental property on Kaniau Road in Lahaina, pictured center left of the home with the larger green pool, burned down in the Aug. 8 fire. (Nathan Eagle/Civil Beat/2023)

On the morning he was supposed to be moving into a new house, Randy drives his wife Marilou and two youngest children to medical appointments at the same clinic. He and Marilou get their teeth cleaned and examined by a dentist. Samara, 13, has a scoliosis check. Kobe, 9, sees a doctor about his hearing loss treatment.

All of the medical evaluations go well.

“My main concern right now is the family being healthy,” Randy says, driving home from the appointments. “I try to take all the stress away from them, the stress of everything that’s happened. I try to be a hero. People say that’s a lot of responsibility, but for me it’s just part of being a parent.”

Civil Beat’s coverage of Maui County is supported in part by grants from the Nuestro Futuro Foundation.

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