There are a lot of questions about the response to the Maul fire, including why people didn’t get warnings to flee in time, why water was allegedly denied at a critical point to fight the fire, and even whether it could have been prevented with proper attention to the risks. Not to mention Joe Biden’s callous response as well, not wanting to even comment on the death toll or his trip to Hawaii on Monday.
One of the people under fire for the response was Herman Andaya, the head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency. Andaya came under fire for not sounding the sirens to warn people about the fire. Andaya said he had no regret about that because they are usually used for tsunamis which would cause people to flee to the mountains, which he said would have them fleeing into the fire.
“We were afraid that people would have gone mauka,” Andaya said, using a Hawaiian word that means inland or toward the mountain. “If that was the case, then they would have gone into the fire.”
He also faced questions about whether he was qualified for the emergency operations job. He previously had held positions as a deputy director of the Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns and had been chief of staff for former Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa for 11 years.
You can see the tension during the press conference when Andaya gave that answer.
Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya today defended the decision not to activate emergency sirens warning #Maui residents and visitors about the wildfires. Here’s a clip from the press conference.
— Star-Advertiser (@StarAdvertiser) August 17, 2023
However, if that were true, that’s a failure of not being clear, which could have been rectified in advance and would also be on him not preparing for this possibility.
On Thursday, Andaya abruptly resigned, citing health reasons, with no further details. His resignation was accepted.
I reported how Hawaiian Electric is now facing lawsuits because the fire may have been started by downed power lines that they allegedly knew were a risk for starting fires, but they reportedly put off addressing the issue while they were also focusing on green energy objectives.
But that wasn’t all. On top of that, more details have emerged about how Hawaiian Electric trucks were partly blocking the road as people were trying to escape the fire.
This is troubling. A lot of people died because of this. https://t.co/58DipzhlRr
— Prof Zenkus (@anthonyzenkus) August 17, 2023
The result was “epic bumper-to-bumper traffic while we were trying to escape,” said resident Cole Millington, 26. “There were no police officers in sight. What there was were Hawaiian Electric trucks coming in with new telephone poles.
“Instead of waiting for everybody to get out, they were blocking the only way out with their big trucks.”
Millington and one of his roommates, Caitlin Carroll, said that when they started to flee Lahaina around 4 p.m. on Aug. 8, Hawaiian Electric workers were already clearing downed power lines and electrical wires from the Honoapiilani Highway.
“I understand that,” Millington said. “You don’t want to be driving over live wires. But they were also starting to replace the poles while we were all trying to get out. We were like, get the f— off the road and let us get by.”
Millington said that he and the other drivers were yelling at the workers to get out of the way.
“It made no sense what they were doing,” Millington said. “They could see the sky was black. They could see the city was on fire. They could see the wind was still whipping everything around. But they were already starting to plant new power poles.”
The drivers offered to help clear the poles.
“But they were waved away,” she said. “It would be one thing if they were just clearing away downed power lines to let us through. But their trucks were in our escape lanes, and they were already trying to fix the poles, replace the poles, while we were just sitting there. It made no sense.”
Amanda Cassidy experienced the same problem and estimated that she was about 20 minutes in front of the people who had to jump into the sea to escape the fire.