Woman loses everything in Maui wildfire except one photo found on a beach miles away

Woman loses everything in Maui wildfire except one photo found on a beach miles away

Like countless others who survived the Maui wildfires, Aubrey Vailoces lost everything.

Or so she thought.

Despite the loss, the mother of three still has a sliver of hope thanks to a stranger’s incredible discovery made on an island just a few miles off the coast of Maui. A single photo from Vailoces’ high school graduation survived the intense blaze. Although burned around the edges, her face and her late great-grandmother’s were intact.

Vailoces believes it was her great-grandmother’s way of telling her she’d “be just fine.”

Vailoces, her three young daughters, partner, and her mother were all at their home in Lahaina when they heard fire alarms go off.

Without wasting any time, they piled into their family car and made what should have been the short trip to her partner’s parents’ home.

“We didn’t take anything,” Vailoces, who was breastfeeding her youngest at the time they evacuated, told GMA. “I didn’t have any slippers. I was just in my nursing bra and underwear.”

After a few hours of sheltering at her in-laws’ it was evident they needed to evacuate once again. They drove to a relative’s house where they were able to seek shelter from the devastating fires.

The following day she learned their house, along with her partner’s parents’ house, had been reduced to ashes.

But one thing did survive… a photo of her and her great-grandmother that had been stored in a decades-old photo album.

“My great-grandmother … raised me from the Philippines when my parents were working here in the States,” Vailoces recalled. “She composed this thick album of every birthday, graduations and hospital pictures and whatnot … and that was the very last page of the album, because that’s when I graduated high school and I was about to move to America with my parents.”

The photo, which Vailoces says was located in the back of the album and stored under her daughters’ bed on the second floor of their home, ended up on the shore of Lanai.

Lanai is a small island a few miles off the coast of Maui.

The person who discovered the photo shared the image on social media in hopes of locating the owner. One of Vailoces’ friends saw it and shared it with her.

She had no idea how the photo ended up across a channel on another island, however Vailoces believes the photo is a sign from her great-grandmother letting her know things will be okay.

LAHAINA, HAWAII – AUGUST 11: In an aerial view, homes and businesses are seen that were destroyed by a wildfire on August 11, 2023 in Lahaina, Hawaii. Dozens of people were killed and thousands were displaced after a wind-driven wildfire devastated the town of Lahaina on Tuesday. Crews are continuing to search for missing people. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The family plans to return to Lahaina as soon as it’s safe, and along the way Vailoces knows her great-grandmother will be guiding her.

“My great-grandmother is so good at directing me with my life, so I think she somehow just gave me that very last picture just to give me hope that we’ll make it, even if everything is gone,” she said. “She always had that way when she was alive, to ensure me that everything is going to be OK.”

As of Tuesday evening, 106 people have been confirmed dead.


Our heart breaks for everyone on the island of Maui. They did not deserve this.

If you are unable to donate to one of the many organizations helping the residents, please pray.