Recent evidence suggests that the electric power infrastructure on Maui, managed by Hawaiian Electric Company, may have played a role in the catastrophic wildfires that claimed 99 lives and decimated the historical Lahaina town.
Amidst rising criticism for not shutting off the power amidst strong winds, Hawaiian Electric is now facing two class-action lawsuits. These lawsuits are pressing for compensation for damages, deaths, and other consequences tied to the fires.
Legal representatives have presented video evidence to the Associated Press, capturing power lines triggering fires after clashing with wind-tossed trees.
While Hawaiian Electric Co. had, in prior documents, acknowledged the potential risks of winds to power lines – even referencing the devastating 2018 Camp Fire in California – they reportedly lacked any immediate strategy to halt power during the Maui fire outbreaks.
CEO Shelee Kimura, during a press briefing, explained the complexity of deciding to interrupt power, emphasizing that it could hinder vital services like healthcare. Kimura noted, “The practice of shutting down power remains contentious and isn’t a universal solution.”
Maui Police Chief John Pelletier, addressing concerns over communication issues impacting rescue missions, highlighted the power dependency of the island’s communication networks. He posed a challenging question, “Do you prioritize alerts or power supply? It’s tough to have both.”
Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez declared a thorough examination of decisions and standing policies linked to the fires. Concurrently, Hawaiian Electric Co. has initiated its internal investigation.