Facing Maui Wildfire Lawsuits, Hawaiian Electric Disputes Claims It Failed to Shut Down Power Lines

The company says it may have to respond to a lawsuit by the County of Maui by showing the government's own failures in preventing and fighting the wildfires.

In response to a growing number of lawsuits over the devastating Maui wildfires, Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), which provides power to the island, says its power lines were shut down and did not contribute to the deadly blaze.

The Maui wildfires began on August 8, resulting in widespread death and devastation. At least 115 people have been confirmed killed, with another 850 still missing in the town of Lāhainā on Maui Island.

Hawaiian Electric now indicates the first fires were reported in the morning of August 8, which were caused by wind knocking down its power lines, but the fire was reportedly spread due to high winds and dry grasses throughout the town of 13,000. It is the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in at least 100 years.

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In the wake of the fire, and as recovery operations continue, Hawaiian Electric faces a growing number of lawsuits brought by area residents, as well as the County of Maui itself, alleging that the company contributed to the wildfires by failing to shut off power lines, which added to the blaze when they fell and burned.

However, the company issued a press release on August 27, disputing plaintiffs’ claims.

According to the Hawaiian power company, the fires began on August 8, and were caused by downed power lines, but the initial fire was reportedly contained until a second blaze broke out that afternoon. By that time, Hawaiian Electric claims it had depowered the lines for at least six hours beforehand.

The cause of the second, so-called “Afternoon Fire” has not yet been determined, company officials say. However, Hawaiin ELectric indicates there was no power running to any of its lines anywhere on the West Maui coast.

“We were surprised and disappointed that the County of Maui rushed to court even before completing its own investigation,” HECO president and CEO Shelee Kimura said in the press release. “We believe the complaint is factually and legally irresponsible. It is inconsistent with the path that we believe we should pursue as a resilient community committed and accountable to each other as well as to Hawaii’s future.”

Kimura said the county’s lawsuit may leave the company no choice but to use the legal system to show the County’s own failures in handling and failing to prevent the wildfires.


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