Jill Valley

(KPAX) Maui County officials confirmed late Wednesday that 36 people have died as a massive wildfire tore through a significant portion of the resort Hawaiian town of Lahaina.

As of Wednesday evening, 271 structures had been impacted, and officials reported "widespread damage" in Lahaina and surrounding areas.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden approved an emergency declaration, making federal resources more readily available.

The response to help in Hawaii will no doubt be huge and organizations — including the Red Cross — are already there providing aid.

Trained Red Cross disaster workers in Hawaii responded immediately, opening shelters for the thousands of people running from the fires. It's a logistical struggle with the scope of the fire, limited resources and communication issues.

MTN News spoke with Montana Red Cross chapter director Diane Wright who said while the Red Cross deals with disasters all the time, she's never seen anything like this.

She does anticipate one volunteer from Helena will be deployed as early as Friday with others to follow in the weeks to come as Hawaii tries to recover.

“We most likely will need volunteers down the road to do initial damage assessment and then help with long-term recovery. We have some dedicated and well-trained volunteers from our region who might go three, four, five six weeks down the road," Wright said.

“We are prepared for things like this. We train year-round not only volunteers in Hawaii but those in our own region and chapters across the country,” Wright added.

People who want to help out the Hawaii fire victims can donate here, text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

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