BBC: Maui police call Hawaiian Electric to shut off power during fire “The BBC obtained audio of a conversation between Maui police and Hawaiian Electric in which the power company confirms that power has been turned off in the town of Lahaina.”
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Revealed: Mistakes that blocked Maui wildfire escape routes
BBC Nov 11, 2023: … U'i wanted to leave by the main highway out of town, taking the Lahainaluna Road. But when she eventually reached the intersection with the highway, the road was closed.
Instead, police were directing cars to Front Street, which runs parallel to the shoreline and had become a "parking lot" of backed-up cars. With flames on either side of them, and black smoke swallowing the trail of headlights behind, she had little choice but to drive forward, one inch at a time.
"I thought, 'Oh my god, we're not moving fast enough'," she recalled….
The town is supposed to have an emergency siren - but it was never activated. Many people decided to self-evacuate at around the same time - when they could see the smoke billowing from roofs nearby. That meant that traffic was bumper-to-bumper.
But Maui Police also blocked many roads, adding to the congestion. They say they did this for two reasons: to stop people driving into the path of the fire, and to prevent people from driving near downed power lines.
"If there was a downed power line, that was live, we want to make sure you don't go over a downed power line," Chief of Police Pelletier said in August.
In an interview with the BBC, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen confirmed that had influenced the response by local authorities. "We were telling everyone throughout the day to treat the power lines as if they were energised," he added….
Police said they were simply trying to stop people from getting electrocuted. But was the power even on?
Not according to Hawaiian Electric. The local electricity company has told the BBC that the power was switched off that morning at 6:40 local time (16:40 GMT) when a brush fire was first reported. Authorities said the fire was totally contained by about 10:00 local time, hours before the afternoon blaze that would engulf the town.
"The control room advised the Maui Police Department on multiple occasions during the day, starting in the morning and extending into the late afternoon, that the company's lines in Lahaina were not energised," Hawaiian Electric told the BBC.
Hawaiian Electric said the police called its "trouble centre" 18 times on the day of the fire. It has given a recording of one of these conversations to the BBC. In the recording, which occurred at 16:11 local time during the height of the evacuation, police asked whether the power around the road of Lahainaluna was switched off.
"It's off right now," a Hawaiian Electric employee said….
read … Revealed: Mistakes that blocked Maui wildfire escape routes - BBC News