OGDEN, Utah (ABC4) — A detective with Ogden Police Department is leading efforts to raise money and collect basic necessities to send to Hawaii after her uncle lost his life and her grandmother lost her home in the devastating wildfires.
“My grandma got a call from him telling her that the house was on fire.” Detective Brei Wolfgramm told ABC4 through tears telling reporters about the experiences her grandmother has had while living in Lahaina. “And the last thing she heard from him was, ‘I think I am going to die.’”
As Detective Wolfgramm opened up about her great uncle’s recent death it became clear that not even a vast ocean could stop the devastation of the wildfires in Hawaii from reaching the mainland. Through choked words, she added: “And they confirmed a few days ago that he didn’t make it out of the house.”
Detective Wolfgramm’s grandmother was celebrating her birthday the day the fires broke out. Detective Wolfgramm calls Utah home, but dozens of cousins, aunts, uncles, and her grandma call Hawaii home. A place that has deep meaning to Wolfgramm. “We loved playing on the tree and going to grandma’s house,” Wolfgramm said. “She was always cooking. There was always food.”
Within hours of the fires starting, the home that Wolfgramm loved visiting as a child, and a home that has now been passed down to younger generations, was lost to the fires. Even worse, Wolfgramm’s grandmother lost her brother to the same fires.
“It’s hard being here and not being able to do anything there,” Wolfgramm stated. Rather than feel helpless, Wolfgramm quickly began thinking of ways she could help her family members in Hawaii. While communication can be hit or miss on the island, she also reached out to her grandma to learn more about their needs. Wolfgramm recounted a recent conversation with her grandmother: “She goes, ‘There’s a lot of people here that need clothes and showed up at my uncle’s house.’ She told Wolfgramm they’re housing 50-plus people right now. She said people showed up with nothing but burnt clothes or clothes covered in soot and that’s all they had.”
The family has set up Venmo accounts to raise money to rebuild their grandma’s house (to allow it to be a place the family can continue to call home for generations to come), to pay for a funeral for her uncles, and to help others on the island. “We’re not just going to help our family,” Wolfgramm stated. “We’re going to reach out to everybody else who needs it. Because my family is there and they’re local, they know best which people need the most help.”
Along with raising money, the family is collecting necessities to send to Hawaii. Wolfgramm said to her knowledge, the organizations on scene offer many basic necessities for people in need, but they are first come first serve and run out quickly. Using their family members on the island, they can learn what friends and neighbors need most, collect it here on the mainland, and send it over to the people who need it most.
The Ogden Police Department has opened its doors for the week to be a central location for people to drop off their donations. In a back-room boxes of clothes, socks, personal hygiene items, sandals, and shoes fill a small break area. These boxes are all donations that were dropped off within hours of the police department announcing that it was joining Detective Wolfgramm’s efforts to collect items for those in need.
“It’s hard to remember, especially in my job, that kind people are there, and seeing all this kindness has been really overwhelming,” the detective said when asked about the community’s response. “It’s made me really grateful to be here with all these great people who went above and beyond, more than I even expected, to help us help other people and to help our family directly.”
The Ogden Police Department will be accepting physical donations through Friday the 18th. The police department has a list of specific items that are being collected, more information on the Venmo accounts as well as some contact information for one of Wolfgramm’s family members who is helping head the donation drive efforts. That information can be found by clicking here.
“We want Lahaina to stay strong and we’re going to do everything we can from here,” Wolfgramm said.