Proprietor of the Famous Crimson Residence Believes This Is the Reason It Endured Maui Wildfires That Reduced All Else to Ash

The occupants of a hundred-year-old timber house, which remained unscathed amidst Maui’s devastating wildfires that razed nearly all nearby properties, credit its preservation to recent renovation efforts.

“It’s a 100% wood house so it’s not like we fireproofed it or anything,” Atwater Millikin said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Substituting the asphalt roof with robust heavy-gauge metal and arranging stones along the ground up to the roof’s projecting drip line—spanning at least three feet—is among the alterations carried out by her and her spouse, according to the account.

The Millikins further eradicated vegetation in proximity to the residence due to apprehensions about termites affecting the wooden structure, she explained. Their sole endeavor in terms of disaster preparedness was the installation of hurricane ties, she appended.

“We love old buildings, so we just wanted to honor the building,” Millikin said. “And we didn’t change the building in any way — we just restored it.”

The residence located at 271 Front Street had an unremarkable presence prior to the wildfires; however, it has now gained prominence as the sole red-roofed structure that managed to withstand the ferocious blaze that swept through the surrounding area.

“It looks like it was photoshopped in,” homeowner Trip Millikin described their house, which contrasts so markedly against surrounding ruins that images of the home have gone viral on social media.

Sitting on Front Street, their residence embodies a craftsman-inspired “plantation vernacular” style, reminiscent of homes constructed by sugar and pineapple plantation firms during the early 20th century, as highlighted in a Honolulu Civil Beat report.

Guiding most construction undertakings for the Pioneer Mill Co., a Native Hawaiian carpenter employed California redwood for its construction, a material endowed with certain inherent fire-resistant attributes, according to Trip Millikin.

In a similar vein, the neighboring historic house, which succumbed entirely to the flames during the August 8 conflagration, was also erected using California redwood, as outlined in the report.

To enhance fire protection against airborne embers, the Millikins introduced a commercial-grade steel roof in place of traditional shingles. Initially, they attributed the survival of their home to this roofing choice.

Michael Wara, affiliated with the Stanford Wood Institute for the Environment, elucidated that the Millikins’ pivotal decision to clear the immediate landscape surrounding the house and replace it with river stones had the most profound impact.

“What folks in the wildfire business call the zone zero or the ember ignition zone, is kind of a key factor in whether homes do or do not burn down,” Wara said in an interview with the Honolulu Civil Beat.

Removing combustible material from the five feet directly around a house is enormously important, he added.

In fires like the one in Lahaina, enormous amounts of flaming embers become airborne. If there’s something combustible next to the house, like a wood fence, a bush or dry grass, it will often ignite the structure, Wara said.