Hawaiian Electric Company is pointing the finger at Maui County for the deadliest wildfire in the United States in more than a century.
The utility issued a news release Sunday night, its first account of the Aug. 8 wildfire, saying its downed power lines sparked an initial blaze at about 6:30 a.m. local time at Lahainaluna Road and Hookahua Street, across the street from Lahaina Intermediate School, but county firefighters “reported it 100% contained” and left the scene.
The company said a second fire broke out at about 3 p.m. after all of its power lines had been de-energized for more than six hours. That blaze, propelled by strong winds, rapidly swept through Lahaina and killed at least 115, with hundreds more missing. The company said the cause of the second blaze is unknown.
“Our hearts and hands are with the people of Lahaina and Maui,” Shelee Kimura, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric, said in the news release. “… There are important lessons to be learned from this tragedy by all of us collectively, and we are resolved to figure out what we need to do to keep our communities safe as climate issues rapidly intensify here and around the globe.”
Hawaiian Electric, which is facing several lawsuits over the fire, including one from Maui County, serves 95% of the state’s population.
“We were surprised and disappointed that the County of Maui rushed to court even before completing its own investigation,” Kimura said. “We believe the complaint is factually and legally irresponsible. It is inconsistent with the path that we believe we should pursue as a resilient community committed and accountable to each other as well as to Hawaii’s future.”
The company said shortly before 3 p.m. Aug. 8, “while the power remained off, our crew members saw a small fire about 75 yards away from Lahainaluna Road in the field near the Intermediate School. They immediately called 911 and reported that fire.”
The company said by the time the county fire department returned to the scene, it was not able to contain the fire and it spread out of control.
Newsmax reached out to Maui County for comment.
Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez has hired an independent third-party organization to help with the state’s investigation into the tragedy.
“She will share her findings when they are completed in a transparent way so that we can all completely understand what happened on Maui that day,” Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said in an emailed statement to Newsmax.
Michael Katz ✉
Michael Katz is a Newsmax reporter with more than 30 years of experience reporting and editing on news, culture, and poltics.
© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.