The Maui fire report describes the utility's slow response to downed power lines

Hawaii's electric utility did not respond quickly enough to first warnings that its power lines were down before last August's deadly Maui fire, experts say, which may have contributed to the worst fire, according to a new timeline report from the Hawaii Attorney General's Office. American history.

The Maui Fire Department first learned of a downed power pole at 5:16 a.m. on Aug. 8, sending “low-hanging wires” across the road, prompting fire officials to immediately alert Hawaii Electric, also known as Hawaii Electric. Report.” MECO was contacted but no ETA was provided,” records state. But a utility worker did not arrive at the scene as of that afternoon, the report said. At the time, several power lines were down in strong winds, several fires were burning and firefighters could not confirm the remaining power lines were down, according to the official timeline.

376 page report, conducted by the Fire Protection Research Institute on behalf of Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez and released Wednesday, is the first of a three-phase study into how and why the Lahaina brush fire became so devastating. Although it did not assign blame or responsibility for how the fire started and spread, it – with Maui Fire Department Report released earlier in the week — raises new questions about how Hawaiian Electric and other public utilities handled the fires that would eventually destroy Lahaina, especially as both investigations cited “the deep connection between nearby hurricanes and wildfires” as the latest examples. In 2018, the Lahaina region was ignited by a catastrophic hurricane.

Hawaiian Electric did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company has already acknowledged its equipment may have caused the initial fire — known as the “morning fire” — that Maui firefighters battled. In a lawsuit against Maui County, Hawaiian Electric blamed the county for failing to fully extinguish the fire, which the utility said had reignited and caused the blaze that destroyed Lahaina.

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Maui County has rejected that assertion, as have some attorneys representing fire victims. Attorney General Alexander Robertson IV, the attorney general's report, said he failed to properly respond to downed power lines and to disable its power lines at the first sign of trouble during a high-wind event.

If they had used standard procedure to send repair crews and visually inspect the downed power line, “they never should have turned that line back on at 6:07 a.m. and caused the fire,” said Robertson, an attorney representing the families who lost their homes. Lovers in fire. “This terrible tragedy was completely avoidable, in my opinion.”

Wildfire experts and firefighters have raised eyebrows at the difference between Hawaii Electric's morning and afternoon fires, and they have maintained that their devices started only one incident, fire investigators insisted Wednesday while discussing the first phase of the investigation. Same area.”

The attorney general's data-heavy analysis confirms the origin of the fire and how it spread, consistent with The Post's previous report on how the fire originated.

Residents told The Post that they were awakened by an arc flash and strong winds in the early hours of August 8. They noticed that their air conditioners and lights were switched off. By 6 a.m., they said their power came back on. Data produced by Whisker Labs, a company that monitors US grids, confirmed that the grid experienced faults during this time. Around 6:30 a.m., residents smelled smoke.

The fire occurred on a day when the Maui Emergency Management Agency was understaffed — despite red flag warnings, high wind watches and fire weather watches — the attorney general's report revealed.

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The company typically operates with one executive and eight full-time employees. On August 7, Herman Andaya, the agency's administrator at the time, was at a conference on Oahu and another employee was unavailable.

The agency's Emergency Operations Center – which is activated in response to weather events – was partially operational by 9pm that night with only two staff members. After the flames began spreading in Lahaina, the Emergency Operations Center was not fully activated until 4:30 p.m. on August 8, with most agency personnel assuming different roles in response to the situation.

Other Maui County agencies maintained normal staffing and did not expose staff to increased risks, the report revealed, underscoring the island's lack of preparedness. According to the report, regular recruitment was done on August 7 in all departments like fire department, police department and water resources department. Hawaiian Electric also maintained casual employees.

The state's initial findings come after the Maui Fire Department released it After action report – Hosted by the Western Association of Fire Chiefs – Tuesday.

The statement said that the lack of quality equipment in the relief vehicles has led to delays in sending them. During the height of the August wildfires, there were off-duty personnel, but insufficient vehicles hampered full engagement, forcing some to use private vehicles.

Some employees were not contacted and remained unaware of the unfolding disaster. Top officials and some fire department personnel use the “WhatsApp” app for updates, but use of the app is not universal across the department.

There are no formal inter-island or mutual aid agreements among Hawaii's fire departments, resulting in a complicated and slow process for relocating equipment.

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Additionally, the report noted that the Maui Fire Department does not have any firefighting crews capable of performing fuel-suppression work.

The two reports come as Maui residents continue to search for answers to basic questions about the disaster.

For months, at least 90 lawsuits representing hundreds of victims have been stalled over a request by Hawaiian Electric to be heard in federal court. At the same time, Maui County agencies have refused to respond to fire investigators' requests for all records and interviews, forcing investigators to issue 67 subpoenas so far to the Maui Emergency Management Agency and water, police and fire departments.

“We have limited information from the EOC, MEMA. We've made several requests for that information,” Derek Algonis, research program manager for the Fire Protection Research Institute, said during a news conference on the release of the report.

Investigators asked for information such as emergency management plans; personnel records for the day of the fire; communication within teams before and after the fire; recent history of brush clearance; water level records; Details on West Maui's water pipe systems; and documents on multiagency training. Several demands in the petition are yet to be met.

In other cases, the subpoenas were only partially executed, according to the report's appendix.

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