Maui wildfires: Lawsuit accuses Hawaiian Electric of negligence resulting in wrongful deaths, severe injuries and damages to property
08/15/2023 // Richard Brown // Views

The cause of the catastrophic wildfires that leveled Lahania, a popular tourist destination in Hawaii, is still unknown. Investigators are considering all possible sources of fire, including a campfire, lightning, transmission equipment and electrical grid.

But several lawsuits filed on behalf of Lahania residents claim that Hawaiian Electric, Maui's main energy provider, was responsible for the tragic event. One lawsuit states that the electric company ignored forecasts from the National Weather Service, which contributed to Lahania's destruction.

"We'd like to see the people of Maui and Hawaii have a safe, reliable electric company. When there are hurricanes, people will have enough to worry about. They do not need to worry about potential catastrophic fires," said Gerald Singleton, a fire litigation lawyer representing at least 30 residents.

The lawsuit has accused the company of negligence resulting in wrongful deaths, severe injuries and property damages.

Hawaiian Electric allegedly failed to de-energize power lines amid high winds and fire warnings in addition to maintaining the infrastructure to make sure it was safe.

A spokesperson told CNN that the utility firm will cooperate with the state in investigating the cause of the fire.

Authorities are still determining whether more could have been done to warn residents.

The state attorney general is conducting a comprehensive review of events and decisions in the run-up to and during the blaze, but it could take a long time. Hawaii lawmakers have expressed concern over what prevented alarm systems from warning residents.

"Sadly, tragically, in this situation, those sirens, likely did not go off," Rep. Jill Tokuda, a Hawaii Democrat, told CBS. "The warning signals that were on cell phones, we had no cell coverage or electricity in some of these areas."

Maui has several warning sirens to warn about disasters, but they were not activated during the inferno. State officials said it isn't yet known if the county's warning sirens were functioning properly.

Hot spots, toxic fumes hinder search and recovery efforts

Many residents are still unable to return to the site of the fire due to risks posed by possible hot spots and toxic fumes. Residents and volunteers have been told to wear masks outside as the air around the burn scar is toxic.

Only three percent of the affected area has been searched and officials said more cadaver dogs are being brought in to help with the search.

The death toll has risen to 99, making it the deadliest since 453 people perished in the 2018 Cloquet Fire in Minnesota. "There will be more. Our hearts are broken," said Hawaii Gov. Josh Green in a video posted on Monday, Aug. 14.

The search effort is moving slowly and dangerously, identifying victims will be a grim and difficult task.

"There are structures that are partially standing that engineers have to clear first to make sure it’s safe for the search-and-rescue teams to go into," said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Deanne Criswell at a White House briefing on Monday.

The August 8 inferno destroyed at least 2,700 buildings, 86 percent of them residential, according to Green.

Three transmission lines were destroyed, leaving much of Lahania without power. Cellphone carriers AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile said they are working to restore service on Maui.

The economic impact on the state could reach $10 billion. "This is the largest natural disaster we've ever experienced," Green said. "It's also going to be a natural disaster that takes an incredible amount of time to recover from."

On Monday, AccuWeather estimated the total damage and economic loss to be between $14 billion and $16 billion. Officials said over $5 billion is needed to rebuild from last week's wildfires. (Related: Wildfires are bankrupting western states, accelerating their financial demise.)

The search for missing persons continues. Some 1,130 of 5,200 people have been listed as "not located," according to a crowd-sourced database circulating on social media. It includes names collected from "missing persons" notices posted at shelters as well as information submitted by relatives and friends.

The American Red Cross reported 2,500 calls from people trying to find and reunite with relatives and friends missing from the fire, said Chris Young, senior director for operations and residence.

Visit for more stories about wildfires.

Watch this video to learn more about the tragedies of the Maui wildfires.

This video is from the Son of the Republic channel on

More related stories:

Maui wildfires burn historic town of Lahaina, kill over 90 Hawaiians with hundreds still missing.

Arson is the likely cause of Quebec wildfires, not carbon emissions.

Wildfires in Greece a result of ARSON, not climate change.

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