Disaster relief worker from the Ozarks describes his time assisting victims of Maui wildfire

FILE - Homes consumed in recent wildfires are seen in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Aug. 16, 2023....
FILE - Homes consumed in recent wildfires are seen in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Aug. 16, 2023. Filipinos began arriving in Hawaii more than a century ago, lured by promises of work on sugarcane and pineapple plantations to support their families back home. Many of those who perished or lost homes in the August 2023 fire were of Filipino descent, a labor force vital to Maui's tourist industry. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)(Jae C. Hong | AP)
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 3:33 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2023 at 4:40 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Disaster relief workers from the Ozarks have worked to assist the recovery efforts after wildfires ripped through Lahaina, Hawaii. The first responders include mental health volunteers with the American Red Cross.

Walter Roberts is a licensed professional counselor who’s been deploying with the Red Cross since Hurricane Katrina. He returned from Maui earlier recently. He says the emotional trauma this disaster has caused may be the worst he’s encountered.

“Individuals were literally escaping inches ahead of the fire, individuals who were burned while they were escaping, individuals saw friends and loved ones perish in the fire,” said Roberts. “And of all the deployments that I’ve done, I think this one probably impacted me the most because of the three weeks that I was there, the stories were consistent. They were constant. There was no let-up of what those of us in the mental health field were hearing.”

Roberts is one of six volunteers from the Red Cross Southern Missouri Chapter deployed to Lahaina.

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