Hawaiian Electric says power lines were shut off hours before wildfire

Records "conclusively establish" that power lines to Lahaina bad been de-energized for six hours when the afternoon fire broke out.

Jarryd Jaeger Vancouver, BC
On Sunday, Hawaiian Electric revealed that it had de-energized all its power lines in West Maui hours before devastating wildfires broke out on the island on the afternoon of August 8.

The claims contradict those made in lawsuits filed by Maui county and others against the energy company, accusing it of "inexcusably [keeping] their power lines energized during forecasted high fire danger conditions."

In a news release, HE said that while a downed power line did spark a fire on the morning of August 8, it was quickly attended to and "100% contained. The company went on to state that records "conclusively establish" that power lines to Lahaina bad been de-energized for six hours when the afternoon fire broke out.

"We were surprised and disappointed that the County of Maui rushed to court even before completing its own investigation," HE CEO Shelee Kimura said. "We believe the complaint is factually and legally irresponsible."

She went on to slam the lawsuits as "inconsistent with the path that we believe we should pursue as a resilient community committed and accountable to each other as well as to Hawaiʻi’s future," and warned that it "may leave [the company] no choice in the legal system but to show [the county's] responsibility for what happened that day."

As Reuters reports, Maui county claimed in its lawsuit that the "severe and catastrophic" losses incurred as a result of the wildfires "could have easily been prevented" if HE had moved to shut down power at the proper time.

The energy company's stock suffered in the days following the lawsuit, however Sunday's news release brought shares back up when trading resumed on Monday.

Wildfires in Lahaina and beyond claimed the lives of over 100 people and caused billions in damage. The origin of the wildfires has not yet been determined, though Hawaii has since brought in an outside investigator to get to the bottom of things.

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