HONOLULU (AP) — Maui County has sued Hawaiian Electric Company over the fires that devastated Lahaina, saying the utility negligently failed to shut off power despite exceptionally high winds and dry conditions.
Witness accounts and video indicated that sparks from power lines ignited fires as utility poles snapped in the winds, which were driven by a passing hurricane. The Aug. 8 fire killed at least 115 people and left an unknown number of others missing.
A Hawaiian Electric statement says they’re “very disappointed that Maui County chose this litigious path while the investigation is still unfolding.” The lawsuit said the destruction could have been avoided and that the utility had a duty “to properly maintain and repair the electric transmission lines, and other equipment including utility poles associated with their transmission of electricity, and to keep vegetation properly trimmed and maintained so as to prevent contact with overhead power lines and other electric equipment.”
The utility knew that high winds “would topple power poles, knock down power lines, and ignite vegetation,” the lawsuit said. “Defendants also knew that if their overhead electrical equipment ignited a fire, it would spread at a critically rapid rate.”
A drought in the region had left plants, including invasive grasses, dangerously dry. As Hurricane Dora passed roughly 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of Hawaii, strong winds toppled at least 30 power poles in West Maui.
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Written by: Editor