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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Full Text: Hawaii Attorney General Maui Wildfire Report
By News Release @ 5:53 PM :: 1326 Views :: Maui County, Energy, Land Use

SA: WATCH LIVE: Hawaii attorney general presents Maui wildfire report findings

HAWAIʻI ATTORNEY GENERAL ANNE LOPEZ RELEASES FIRST PHASE OBJECTIVE, SCIENCE-BASED FACTS RELATED TO THE MAUI FIRE INVESTIGATION

Phase One report and fact-based timeline documents how the Lahaina fire unfolded, including events that occurred prior to, during and immediately following the fire’s ignition.

PDF: Report

(Editor’s Note: AG Lopez structured the FSRI contract to focus entirely on the role of public agencies, thus avoiding any liability borne by Hawaiian Electric or private landowners such as KSBE.)

News release from Office of the Attorney General, April 17, 2024

HONOLULU - Hawaiʻi Attorney General Anne Lopez announced today Phase One of the three-part investigation into how state and county governments responded during the Maui wildfires. The Phase One report and Timeline will inform the Phase Two analysis and Phase Three recommendations for improved safety in Hawaiʻi.

“Responsible governance requires we look at what happened, and using an objective, science-based approach, identify how state and county governments responded. We will review what worked and what did not work and make improvements to prevent future disasters of this magnitude,” said Attorney General Lopez. “Today we are sharing the Lahaina Fire Report and Timeline so that the people of Hawaii can know how the fire unfolded.”

Attorney General Lopez selected the independent, third-party Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI), part of UL Research Institutes, to assess the performance of state and county agencies in preparing for and responding to the Maui wildfires. FSRI has extensive experience researching fire dynamics, structure-to-structure fire spread and near-miss firefighting incidents. Currently, FSRI is focused on fires in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) where wildfire moves to impact communities.

“This comprehensive Lahaina Fire Report and minute-by-minute timeline focuses on the events that occurred prior to, during and immediately following the Lahaina fire. This includes factors such as preparedness efforts, weather and its impact to infrastructure, and other fires occurring on Maui for the time period beginning at 14:55 (2:55 p.m. HST) on Aug. 8, 2023, and concluding at 08:30 (8:30 a.m.) on Aug. 9, 2023,” said Steve Kerber, Ph.D., PE, vice president and executive director of FSRI. “The Lahaina wildfire tragedy serves as a sobering reminder that the threat of grassland fires, wildfires and wildfire-initiated urban conflagrations, fueled by climate change and urban encroachment into wildland areas, is a reality that must be addressed with the utmost urgency and diligence – not just in Hawaiʻi.”

The Phase One report and Timeline focus on three main areas:

1. Pre-fire conditions – how environmental conditions including climate and weather, vegetation and fuels helped create the situation;

2. Fire progression – how more than 12,000 lines of data including 911 calls, radio transmissions and personal photos taken by members of the Lahaina community to inform how the fire spread; and

3. Emergency response – how organizations responded to the crisis.

Kerber cautions that it is premature to draw conclusions based solely on the report and timeline and that the FSRI analysis of the facts will result in more details that will be shared in the Phase Two report targeted for release the end of the summer and Phase Three completed by the end of the year.

“I want to thank the people of Lahaina for the generosity they showed in sharing their stories, videos and photos with us,” added Kerber. “Their experiences and observations are a valuable part of the data collection and validation process. Their contributions were critical in the development of this report and timeline, and we must also recognize the heroic actions of first responders and civilians alike who were on the ground doing their best to protect people and property during this tragic event.”

“Let me be clear: we are not here to place blame or draw conclusions,” said Lopez. “The focus of the Phase One report and Timeline is to identify the facts. Phase Two will use the Timeline to analyze the facts, and Phase Three will focus on recommendations for the future. The purpose of this independent analysis is to find facts and develop new policies and procedures to save lives and property in the future so Hawaiʻi will be a safer place to live for generations to come.”

Attorney General Lopez added, “To be clear, this is not a report about the ‘cause’ of any fire – the causation investigation is being performed by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and firearms and the Maui Fire and Public Safety Department.”

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About the Department of the Attorney General The Attorney General, who is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate, is the chief legal officer and chief law enforcement officer of the state of Hawaiʻi. The Attorney General is by statute authorized to independently proceed with investigations and works to deliver on its mission of providing excellent legal and public services in a timely manner.

About Fire Safety Research Institute The Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) strives to advance fire safety knowledge and strategies in order to create safer environments. As part of UL Research Institutes, the nonprofit safety science organization within the UL enterprise, FSRI uses advanced fire science, rigorous research, extensive outreach, and education in collaboration with an international network of partners to impart stakeholders with knowledge, tools, and resources that enable them to make better, more fire safe decisions, ultimately saving lives and property. To learn more, visit fsri.org. Follow FSRI on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  

COVERAGE 

IM: Hawai`i Attorney General Releases Badly Formatted Lahaina Fire Report | Ililani Media  Some of the pages are in magazine format with four columns on one page makes the print very small.  If one seeks to enlarge one page to a readable size, then the page goes off the bottom of the computer screen, thus reading to the bottom of the left-hand page and then going to the right-hand page means one must scroll up to the top of the page.  Compounding this, the online version does not allow for searches. When downloaded, the search function only pulls up a few of the citations. Copying relevant parts of the report by the cut-and-paste method is blocked.

Firefighters and police could have saved more lives and property if not saddled with inept county leadership

Shapiro: … firefighters and police could have saved more lives and property if not saddled with inept county leadership….

The report depicts Bissen as shuttling cluelessly between the emergency center, his office and a medical appointment, asking “layperson questions,” getting spotty information from social media and generally trying to stay out of the way as the fire built.

He turned down help from other counties and was slow to contact Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, head of state emergency management and the Hawaii National Guard. Hara offered full cooperation but was given incomplete information and went to bed unaware of the magnitude of the tragedy unfolding in Lahaina.

Bissen failed to order his little-qualified emergency management director, Herman Andaya, to return from a conference on Oahu, where he monitored the situation via texts with an aide who had little accurate information to give.

The mayor and Andaya hadn’t mobilized emergency operations in advance despite warnings from the National Weather Service that passing hurricane winds posed extreme wildfire risks that day.

Andaya, since sent packing, told the attorney general’s investigators the mayor felt Maui could handle the situation on its own and didn’t need to call in the National Guard or other outside help. He didn’t return from his conference until Lahaina was already in ashes….

Borreca: This fire may have been fierce, but it was not an unimagined blaze. There actually had been a smaller but similar blaze in the same area in the past.

SA: “Unbelievable.

read … David Shapiro: Mayor Bissen led from the rear in fighting Lahaina’s fire  

KHON: Max Rodriguez asked Mayor Bissen if looking back, he would he do anything different.  He said he isn’t sure, but at this time his focus is the recovery and rebuilding of Lahaina.

KHON:  Andaya — on Oahu for an emergency management conference — knew from dawn on Aug. 8 that Upcountry was ablaze, and pockets of Lahaina not long after, but he stays on Oahu. Through a combination of interviews and subpoenaed texts, it is revealed that Andaya turned down advice and suggestions from other county and state counterparts to escalate response with more resources, full emergency-operations-center activation, National Guard assets, and an emergency declaration. Andaya says repeatedly that the mayor said Maui could manage and didn’t think it was necessary.

HNN: Derek Alkonis, institute research program manager, said investigators still aren’t satisfied they have an explanation of that and other communication issues in Maui County — or even who was in the Emergency Operation Center during the height of the disaster. “We have limited information from the EOC, but we do have some and we have made multiple requests,” he said.

The timeline also shows county officials were unaware the fires were spreading out as they approach the ocean and people were dying. The first fatality was reported at 4:24 p.m. by an officer on Mill Street. Just before 5 p.m. structures on Front Street near the ocean were burning.

At about 5:43 p.m., Andaya asked his EOC if homes were lost and was told they don’t know.

At 7:19 p.m., Andaya told the state that he believed only one business has been lost.

‘Wow ... LOL’: Text messages from ex-MEMA head point to lack of urgency during Lahaina firefight

HNN: … The report documents a series of disturbing text messages between Andaya and MEMA administrative assistant Gaye Gabuat, during which they show a lack of concern.

Here are some of those messages:

3:53 p.m. Gaye Gabuat to Herman Andaya: “Lol. Poor chief looks so overwhelm. Chief is wanting help from the military. Not sure of what.”

4:01 p.m.  Andaya to Gabuat: “This is crazy. How is everyone holding up?”

4:03 p.m.  Andaya to Gabuat: “Should I come home?

Gabuat to Andaya: “PIOs are funny. There are 3 of them and they look scared and overwhelmed....I think they need a hug lol to calm down.”

9:37 p.m.  Andaya to Gabuat: “How’s the other fires?”

9:38 p.m.  Gabuat to Andaya: “Still burning”

Andaya to Gabuat: “Wow ... Lol”

Gabuat to Andaya: “Now we have Kihei fire near Pulehu Road.”

Andaya to Gabuat: “You just keep making my day.”

10:58 p.m.  Hawaii Emergency Management Agency administrator James Barros to Andaya: “LtG just called...Very concerned.”

Andaya to Barros: “Yes....this is really bad. I’m flying back tomorrow.” ….

read … ‘Wow ... LOL’: Text messages from ex-MEMA head point to lack of urgency during Lahaina firefight

WaPo: MECO Took Hours to Respond to Lahaina Downed Line at Source of Fire

WaPo: … Hawaii’s electric utility did not respond quickly to the first alerts of its power lines breaking before the deadly Maui fire last August, according to a new timeline report by the Hawaii attorney general’s office, a lapse that experts say may have contributed to the deadliest fire in U.S. history.

The report shows the Maui Fire Department first learned a power pole had snapped, sending “low hanging wires across” the road at 5:16 a.m. on Aug. 8, prompting fire officers to immediately alert Hawaiian Electric, referred to as Maui Electric in the report. But a utility worker did not arrive on scene until hours later that afternoon, the report stated. By that point, numerous power lines had fallen in high winds, multiple fires were burning and, for most of the day, police officers and fire officials had no idea if the lines were de-energized or not, according to the timeline….

Had the utility followed standard practice to dispatch a repair crew and visually inspect that broken pole, “they never should have re-energized that line at 6:07 a.m. thereby causing the fire,” said Robertson, an attorney representing families who lost homes and loved ones in the blaze. “This horrible tragedy was entirely avoidable, in my opinion.”…

Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen was also slow to treat the blazes as serious emergencies, according to the probe. Despite schools closing and multiple fires burning at once, Bissen refused to declare an emergency, saying it “was not necessary,” the report stated.

At 3:15 p.m., as the Lahaina fire grew quickly in intensity and size, state officials tried to get ahold of the mayor, asking if he was in the Emergency Operations Center, and were told “no.” Finally, at 8 p.m., Bissen signed an emergency order. By that time, Lahaina had already burned to the ground and scores of people were missing….

For months, at least 90 lawsuits representing hundreds of victims had been stalled due to Hawaiian Electric’s demands to have them tried in federal court. At the same time, Maui County agencies have declined to answer fire investigators’ requests for all records and interviews, forcing investigators to issue 67 subpoenas so far to the Maui Emergency Management Agency and the water, police and fire departments.

“We have limited information from EOC, from MEMA. We have made multiple requests for that information,” said Derek Alkonis, research program manager for the Fire Safety Research Institute, during a news conference Wednesday on the report’s release….

read … New Maui fire report shows utility waited hours to respond to broken power line 

SA: Missing Maui County documents complicate Lahaina fire probe 

CB: AG's Report Shows Lack Of Communication Prevented Help For People Trapped In Lahaina Fire

CN: Hawaii authorities vow swift investigation into wildfire while releasing timeline

SA: First findings from state probe of Lahaina fire released 

AP: Takeaways from this week’s reports on August 8 Lahaina fire

TV: How planning and infrastructure failed during Maui wildfires - The Verge

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