SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY, Calif. — San Luis Obispo County Cool Cat Cafe owner Sean Corpuel lost two businesses in Hawaii due to the ongoing Maui wildfires.
The fires began August 8, burning down sister cafe — Cool Cat Cafe in Maui, Hawaii. In addition to losing the cafe, Corpuel said he also lost his restaurant next door, Captain Jack’s Island Grill.
"It literally looks like a war zone. It’s a disaster area," Corpuel said. "A lot of these people are stranded. These people are in shelters, they have no homes, no clothes, nothing. There are still hot spots, cell service is spotty, and electricity is shut off."
Recent reports indicate 2,200 buildings and other structures have been damaged or destroyed as of Friday, including the two restaurants owned by Corpuel. The Maui wildfires have burned over 2,170 acres.
Maui officials said that from the six fires currently burning in Maui County and the Big Island, the Lahaina fire is 85% contained.
Officials also said 80 people are dead and the numbers are likely to increase in Lahaina as crews continue to search through the wreckage.
On August 9, Hawaii declared a state of emergency.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Pacific Disaster Center estimates 51,700 square feet of shelter will be needed for 4,500 people as a result of the Maui wildfires.
Between the two restaurants, 120 people are now without jobs and at least 60 of the family’s restaurant workers also lost their homes and vehicles, says Corpuel.
Corpuel and his father Steve Corpuel, opened Cool Cat Cafe in Lahaina 20 years ago and opened Captain Jack’s 10 years ago. Both say their workers are like family.
"They’re just really good people. We look out for each other and we help each other out," said Corpuel. "I have some people who have been with me 20 years... They’ve become my extended family.”
The Corpuels have set up a GoFundMe account in an effort to help their employees and family members impacted by the disaster. They hope that the community will consider donating.
Donations can also be done directly through Splash Café — Cool Cat Cafe’s Pismo Beach neighbor — who are pledging to match funds.
"Our staff would be grateful for any help. One hundred percent of the money given is going to go to these people," Corpuel said. "As the days unfold moving forward, that’s when the shock leaves and reality sets in. I'm just looking for them to have some hope — that we can help take care of them."