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Persistence, smarts net first images from the heart of Lahaina since deadly Maui fire

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She succeeded.

With help from Honolulu reporter Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Wasson worked the phones and drove miles around the island over three days to find someone who could get her access to Front Street — an area where many died as they tried to flee the flames but that was closed to the public. She hit pay dirt when a teacher who had talked to Kelleher ultimately led to a woman who agreed to take Wasson in.

The two entered through an adjacent zone that was open to residents and into the heart of Lahaina.

In series of images, Wasson documented the famous banyan tree, which showed new growth; Front Street now cleared of the burned-out cars; the ashes of a Buddhist temple that was photographed in flames; and a moonscape where tourist shops and restaurants once stood.

AP had not been there since two days after the Aug. 8 blaze when a multi-formats team was told to leave.

Wasson returned to Seattle with more than four dozen extraordinary and exclusive images on the AP wire, and a bylined story with help from Honolulu statehouse reporter Audrey McAvoy — a day before the area reopened. The images were used prominently by members including NPR, CBS News, NBC News, FOX, Hawaii Public Radio and Hawaii’s largest paper, the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

For exclusive photos from Front Street, Wasson is Best of the Week — Second Winner.

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