Lawsuit Filed Against Hawaiian Electric Over Deadly Lahaina Wildfire

by Anna

Amid the aftermath of a devastating wildfire that claimed the lives of at least 115 individuals in Lahaina, the county of Maui has taken legal action against Hawaiian Electric, asserting the utility’s culpability in the tragedy. The lawsuit alleges negligence on the part of Hawaiian Electric in maintaining its system and failing to disconnect the power despite a National Weather Service red flag warning. Reports suggest that the conflagration may have been sparked by downed power lines and leaning poles.


Shelee Kimura, CEO of Hawaiian Electric, expressed a willingness to learn from the tragic incident, appealing to the community’s collective strength and unity. While the utility asserts that its equipment was not the ignition source of the fire, the company has laid out a timeline to present its perspective:


A fire was observed at 6:30 a.m. caused by power lines falling due to high winds.
Maui County Fire Department addressed the Morning Fire, declaring it “100% contained” and later “extinguished.”
A second fire, referred to as the Afternoon Fire, began around 3 p.m. in the same area after Hawaiian Electric’s power lines in West Maui had been de-energized for over six hours.
The cause of the Afternoon Fire remains under investigation.
“We were taken aback by the swift legal action taken by the County of Maui before their own investigation was completed,” Kimura remarked, emphasizing that the utility perceives the complaint as both factually and legally unjustifiable. Kimura stated, “It diverges from the path we believe we should collectively pursue as a resilient community accountable to each other and Hawaii’s future.”

However, the utility firm suggested that legal action might become necessary to demonstrate the county’s accountability in the event.

While Hawaiian Electric indicated its readiness to collaborate with the impacted communities, it also cautioned that the county’s lawsuit might compel legal intervention to ascertain accountability.

In its statement, Hawaiian Electric outlined further details:

Records substantiate that power lines to Lahaina were not energized when the Afternoon Fire ignited.
The Morning Fire began hours earlier, starting near the intersection of Lahainaluna Road and Hoʻokahua Street, with videos showing downed power lines and a subsequent small fire.

The Morning Fire was promptly addressed by the Maui County Fire Department, which later reported containment and left the scene.
Hawaiian Electric emergency crews arrived for repairs in the afternoon, observing no active fire.

A small fire was observed in the vicinity shortly before 3 p.m., despite power being off in the area.

The Afternoon Fire expanded beyond control towards Lahaina, despite the Maui County Fire Department’s efforts.

Scott Seu, president and CEO of HEI, expressed his concern that the lawsuit could hinder recovery efforts for the affected community. He highlighted that Hawaiian Electric’s primary focus since the fire has been supporting those impacted and contributing to Maui’s recovery, underscoring the company’s commitment to rebuilding and fostering a thriving future for the island.

As investigations continue into the devastating incident, both Hawaiian Electric and the county of Maui face a complex legal and public discourse surrounding accountability and responsibility.


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