Maui wildfires updates: President Biden, first lady get firsthand look at damage

The fires burned thousands of homes and commercial buildings to the ground.

The deadly wildfires that erupted on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Aug. 8 have become the deadliest natural disaster in state history, officials said.

The blazes spread rapidly due to very dry conditions stemming from a drought combined with powerful winds. Much of the historic town of Lahaina has been "destroyed," officials said, and the inferno has burned thousands of residential and commercial buildings to the ground.

Maui Strong: Charities to directly support wildfire relief efforts

On Thursday, "Good Morning America" and ABC News organized efforts to help viewers get involved in relief efforts for survivors of the Maui fires.

How to help:

-- Maui Strong Fund

-- Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement

-- University of Hawai'i Foundation

-- Kokua Restaurant & Hospitality Fund for Maui

-- American Red Cross/ABC

-ABC News’ Kelly McCarthy

What we know about the victims

Over 100 people have died from the devastating wildfires on Maui. Officials have warned that the death toll is expected to rise as they work to contain the active blazes and assess the damage.

Click here to read what we know about some of the victims.

Death toll rises to 115

The death toll from the wildfires has risen to 115 people, Maui County and the Maui Police Department said Monday.

Biden: 'We're going to rebuild the way the people of Maui want it to be rebuilt'

President Joe Biden spoke with reporters after he and the first lady toured the damage of the wildfires with Gov. Josh Green and other Hawaii elected officials.

Biden, who spoke near a historic banyan tree that was not burned, acknowledged the damage was devastating but said the strength of residents and state and local leaders would help the community persevere.

"The tree survived for a reason. I believe it's a powerful, a very powerful symbol of what we can and will do to get through this crisis," he said.

The president reflected on his own loss when his first wife Neilia and 13-month-old daughter Naomi were killed in a car crash in 1972 and said he knows the pain of what many residents, especially ones who are still searching for their loved ones, are going through.

Biden said there are over 450 search-and-rescue experts working around the clock to help find people.

"The difference between knowing somebody's gone and worrying whether they're available to come back are two different things," he said.

Biden acknowledged the long road ahead but reiterated that the federal government will be on the island "for as long as it takes" to help them recover and rebuild.

He emphasized that the federal government "will be respectful of the sacred grounds [and] the traditions."

"We're going to rebuild the way that people of Maui want to build, but you know, it's gonna be hard," he said.

Bidens land in Maui, begin tour of devastated areas

President Joe Biden and first lady Dr. Jill Biden arrived in Maui around 11:20 a.m. local time for their visit to the devastated island.

Biden was greeted by Hawaii Gov. Josh Green at the bottom of Air Force One. Green shook the president’s hand before the two hugged.

The first lady also hugged Green and his wife Jaime.

Sens. Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono and Rep. Jill Tokuda also greeted the Bidens.

The president and first lady took an aerial tour aboard Marine One an aerial tour of the impacted areas with the governor, senators, Tokuda and Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator Deanne Criswell.

The Bidens and the entourage then took a tour on foot.

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Biden's visit will be 'an emotional day for everyone': White House

President Joe Biden and the first lady's visit to Maui later on Monday will be "an emotional day for everyone," White House principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton told reporters.

The president will "meet with parents who've lost children, and children who lost parents, and first responders who saved other's homes while their own burned to the ground," Dalton said.

Over $8.5 million has been distributed to Maui residents, including $3.6 million for direct rental assistance, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said.

Eight-thousand families have registered for assistance, she said.

Biden on Monday is expected to announce Bob Fenton, the Region 9 administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as the chief federal response coordinator to oversee Maui's long-term coordinated federal recovery effort.

Criswell said Fenton will "provide that level of oversight and coordination to make sure all the federal departments and agencies are bringing all the resources that they can to help this community rebuild and recover."

-ABC News' Justin Gomez

Survivor jumped into water to escape flames: 'It seemed like I might drown'

Shawn Dougherty is recovering from burn injuries at a shelter set up at the War Memorial Gym in Maui after jumping into water to escape from the flames.

Dougherty told ABC News the "first sign of peril" on Tuesday was when a tree in his backyard snapped from strong wind gusts. When a house in his Lahaina neighborhood started to fill with smoke, he and his girlfriend drove toward the harbor, where businesses were on fire.

He and his girlfriend ended up leaving their car and jumping in the water to escape the flames. Dougherty said he got cuts and bruises from getting knocked against the rocks and coral.

"At one point, it seemed like I might drown," he said. "I'm a good swimmer, but the water was just really rough because of the wind and the turbulence."

They had to temporarily swim away from the rock wall because of the intense heat from the fires, he said. A first responder eventually told them to get out of the water because "it's not going to get any better," so he and his girlfriend took the chance and climbed out.

"I couldn't even make it across the street because the pavement was so hot. And now I have second degree burns on the bottom of my feet," Dougherty said.

Dougherty said he had difficulties walking due to his burns and lost track of his girlfriend after getting out of the water. He ended up waiting in the water and on the rock wall until firefighters carried him to a truck and ultimately brought him to a hospital for treatment.

He's been at the shelter since Wednesday morning and hasn't been able to get ahold of his girlfriend since.

"I've got to find a way to procure a phone so I can start making contacts with people and find my beautiful girlfriend," he said. "I'm so scared."

-ABC News' Izzy Alvarez