The Hawaiian Electric Company said the fire appeared to have been caused by downed power lines due to strong winds on the morning of August 8, but by the time the fire broke out the second afternoon, it had shut down power lines in West Maui for more than six hours. were given. Lahaina Region.
The company made the comments in a new response Sunday to a lawsuit filed by Maui County.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday, Maui County accused the electric company, known as HECO, of “inexplicably keeping its power lines active” through early August, despite the fact that the National Weather Service had issued a high wind watch and fire warning.
The utility states that the cause of the fire has not yet been determined. That afternoon’s fire eventually turned into an inferno that killed at least 115 people and damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 structures.
In a press release, HECO referred to video that showed power lines were downed to the ground by high winds near the intersection of Lahinaluna Road and Hukahua Street at approximately 6:30 a.m. But the Maui County Fire Department had declared the fire 100% contained as of 9 a.m., he said.
HECO’s press release explained: “Once the fire was extinguished, Hawaiian Electric emergency crews arrived at Lahinaluna Road in the afternoon of August 8 to make repairs; He saw neither fire, nor smoke, nor embers. All lines in Lahaina were de-energized and all power was out in the area.
Shortly before 3 p.m., when the power was out, HECO said its crew members observed a small fire about 75 yards off Lahainaluna Road in a field near the Intermediate School. They immediately called 911 and reported the fire, the release said.
By the time the Maui County Fire Department returned to the scene, it was unable to contain the fire and it spread out of control toward Lahaina, the release said.
In a statement to CNN on Monday, John Fiske, the attorney representing Maui County in the lawsuit, said, “To the extent that HECO has knowledge of a second ignition source, HECO must now present that evidence. The ultimate responsibility rests with HECO.” de-energize it, ensure that its equipment and systems are properly maintained, and ensure that downed power lines are not energized.
CNN asked Fiske for clarity on why he believed Hawaiian Electric had information about a second ignition source, but he did not immediately respond.
HECO President and CEO Shelley Kimura said, “We were surprised and disappointed that Maui County reached court before completing its investigation. We believe the complaint is factually and legally unresponsive. It is inconsistent with the way we believe we should be committed and accountable to each other as a resilient community, as well as to the future of Hawaii. We stand ready to work with our communities and others toward that goal. Unfortunately, the county’s lawsuit may leave us with no choice but to show the legal system our responsibility for what happened that day.
Kimura also said there are important lessons everyone should learn from this tragedy, and “we are determined to figure out what we need to do to keep our communities safe as climate-related issues intensify here and around the world.” growing from.” We invite others to do the same with us.”