Maui Electric responds to lawsuit, alleging power lines were deactivated after the August 8th fire
Maui Electric confirmed Monday that faulty power lines were the cause of a morning fire near Lahaina on August 8, but the company says it cut the power before another fire started in the same area and later swept the island.
Utilities responded to suit The county of Maui filed last week against it and other electric companies alleging they were negligent during the lead-up to the fires and ignored warnings of high winds and other potential fire warnings from meteorological officials.
Shelley Kimura, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric, said in a statement that the allegations in the lawsuit were “factually and legally irresponsible.” It claimed that the company’s investigations showed that it responded to the two fires immediately.
The tool released a timeline of what it claimed happened that day and said it had provided data to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which is investigating the cause of the deadly wildfires.
At approximately 6:30 a.m. EST, August 8, Maui Electric said that high winds toppled a power line causing a fire near Lahinaluna High School.
Residents who live near where the blaze started filmed the blaze and told ABC News that firefighters arrived minutes later.
Maui Electric said the fire department battled the blaze and said firefighters reported it was “100% contained” by 9 a.m. Around this time, the facility claimed to have cut off the electricity.
“There was no electricity flowing through wires in the area or anywhere else on Maui’s west coast,” Maui Electric said in a statement.
At around 2:00 p.m., the fire department left the scene after announcing that the fire had been put out, according to the authority.
Maui Electric said it had sent emergency crews to make repairs and claimed that power lines were still down and power was still out.
At first, emergency crews at the facility saw no smoke or embers, but around 3 p.m., crews spotted another fire 75 yards away near another school, according to Maui Electric.
Facilities say crews called 911, and firefighters arrived, but they were unable to control the fire and it spread toward Lahaina.
Maui Fire and the County of Maui did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment.
The wildfire has been the deadliest fire in American history, with more than that 115 people were killedand at least 388 are missing and severe damage to buildings, trees and infrastructure.
The cause of the fire has not been determined and the ATF investigation is continuing.
The lawsuit, filed in Maui County, asserts that the island’s facilities failed to act and make preparations after the National Weather Service issued its August 7 report. Red flag warning“Warm temperatures, very low humidity and strong winds are expected to combine to increase the risk of fire hazard.”
The suit alleges that the downed and lively power lines “ignited dry fuels such as grass and brush, causing the fires.”
Kimura said the company was “surprised and disappointed that the county of Maui rushed to court even before completing its investigation.”
“We continue to prepare to work toward that end with our communities and others,” she said. “Unfortunately, the county’s lawsuit may leave us with no choice in the legal system but to show responsibility for what happened that day.”
Hawaii Electric is also the subject of a class action lawsuit by affected residents who allege that the utilities “kept their power lines gratuitously energized” despite forecasts of high winds that could topple power lines and possibly start a rapidly spreading fire.
The tool declined to comment on that lawsuit.