Surrounded by flames on Hawaii's scenic Lahaina boardwalk with cars exploding in the heat around her, Annelise Cochran decided jumping into the sea was her only choice.

"It was seconds. And it almost didn't feel like a decision that I was really making. Because there only seemed to be one option," Cochran said six days after surviving a raging wildfire that destroyed the small resort community on Maui's west coast.

The 30-year-old, an experienced swimmer who works for the non-profit organization Pacific Whale Foundation, lost neighbors and friends — as well as her apartment, car, and pet bird — in the tragedy that has left almost 100 dead and more than 1,000 missing.