Hawaii AG to review wildfire response to understand ‘the decisions that were made’

HONOLULU (KHON) – Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez announced on Friday that a comprehensive review will be done to understand “the decisions that were made” by officials before, during and after devastating wildfires destroyed communities throughout Maui and beyond.

“The Department of the Attorney General shares the grief felt by all in Hawaiʻi, and our
hearts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy,” Lopez wrote in a statement included in Friday’s news release.

“My Department is committed to understanding the decisions that were made before and during the wildfires and to sharing with the public the results of this review,” she continued. “As we continue to support all aspects of the ongoing relief effort, now is the time to begin this
process of understanding.”

The assessment will also review the standing policies concerning such an emergency, according to Lopez’s office.

Lopez’s office did not say, specifically, which events or decisions prompted the announcement for a review.

At least 80 people had died as a result of the wildfires, according to the latest death toll provided by Hawaii officials on Friday night. It’s the deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii in decades, surpassing a 1960 tsunami that killed 61 people. An even deadlier tsunami in 1946, which killed more than 150 on the Big Island, prompted development of a territory-wide emergency system with sirens that are tested monthly.

Many survivors, however, said they didn’t hear any sirens or receive a warning giving them enough time to prepare, realizing they were in danger only when they saw flames or heard explosions.

Maui’s fire risk wasn’t totally unexpected, either, as the potential for a blaze was well-recognized in Lahaina: Maui County’s hazard mitigation plan, last updated in 2020, identified Lahaina and other West Maui communities as having frequent wildfires and a large number of buildings at risk for wildfire damage.

But the fires, coupled with winds whipping across the island from passing Hurricane Dora, made efforts to contain the blaze nearly impossible for Maui County fire officials.

“You’re basically dealing with trying to fight a blowtorch,” said Bobby Lee, the president of the Hawaii Firefighters Association.

Lahaina resident Riley Curran told the Associated Press that county officials probably couldn’t have done much more to warn of the onrushing flames.

“It’s not that people didn’t try to do anything,” Curran said. “The fire went from 0 to 100.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Hawaii AG to review wildfire response to understand ‘the decisions that were made’

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