Hawaiian Electric is facing lawsuits for holding the Maui burnout

Hawaiian Electric admitted its power lines caused a wildfire in Maui, but criticized county firefighters for declaring the fire contained and leaving the scene, only for a second wildfire to break out nearby and become the deadliest in the US since over a century.

Wailuku attorney Paul Starita, the lead attorney in three lawsuits filed by Singleton Schreiber, called it a “tragedy of preventable epic proportions” and said the fire department’s response does not absolve Hawaiian Electric of liability.

The facility faces a series of new lawsuits seeking to hold it responsible.

Company justification

Hawaiian Electric issued a statement in response to a lawsuit filed by the County of Maui that blamed the utility for failing to cut power despite high winds and exceptionally dry conditions. The company called the complaint “factually and legally irresponsible,” and said its power lines in West Maui were out of action for more than six hours when the second fire started.

ignition onset

The statement showed that the fire, which broke out on the morning of August 8, “appears to have been caused by downed power lines due to strong winds.”

But Hawaiian Electric appears to be blaming Maui County for most of the devastation — the fire appeared to reignite that afternoon and rip through downtown Lahaina, killing at least 115 people and destroying 2,000 buildings.

Richard Fried, a Honolulu attorney who is acting as co-counsel in the lawsuit filed in Maui County, responded by saying that if power company lines were not the cause of the initial fire, “that’s all moot.”

The struggle over the issue could be decisive in determining who is responsible for billions of dollars in damages that exceed the loss of life.

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