Maui emergency services chief RESIGNS following backlash for not activating alert sirens

Administrator Herman Andaya, the head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, resigned on Thursday, just one day after he defended his decision to forgo sounding the island’s warning alarm to alert the people of the disastrous inferno raging around them.

Andaya argued that had he deployed the sirens during the fire, people may have gone “mauka” — a “navigational term that can mean toward the mountains or inland in Hawaiian,” according to the Associated Press.

“If that was the case, then they would have gone into the fire,” Andaya said.

Instead, Hawaiians faced an escape route that was littered with vehicles that had been engulfed in flames and firefighters who were battling water shortages as well as the blaze.

“At least 111 people were killed,” the AP reports, making the Maui fire the deadliest wildfire the U.S. has seen in more than a century.

The day after making his remarks, Andaya handed in his resignation, citing “health reasons.”

“Today Mayor Richard Bissen accepted the resignation of Maui Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Administrator Herman Andaya,” the County of Maui posted on Facebook. “Citing health reasons, Andaya submitted his resignation effective immediately.”

“Given the gravity of the crisis we are facing,”  Mayor Bissen said, “my team and I will be placing someone in this key position as quickly as possible and I look forward to making that announcement soon.”

Andaya had previously spent 11 years as the chief of staff for former Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, who said Andaya’s resignation was a disappointment “because now we’re out one person who is really qualified,” according to the AP.

“He was trying to be strong and trying to do the job,” Arakawa said about Andaya’s response to the wildfire. “He was very, very heartbroken about all the things that happened.”

An outside organization will launch “an impartial, independent” review of the state government’s response to the tragic fire, Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez said earlier on Thursday. Officials intend “to facilitate any necessary corrective action and to advance future emergency preparedness.”

It’s an investigation that will likely take months to complete, Lopez added.

(Video: YouTube)

Meanwhile, Hawaii’s largest supplier of electricity, Hawaiian Electric, is taking a different kind of heat for allegedly prioritizing woke renewable energy policies over the prevention of wildfires, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A whopping 95% of locals get their power from Hawaiian Electric, which, during the 2019 wildfires, admitted that it needed to do more the keep its power lines from throwing sparks.

The utility company vowed it would use drone surveys to identify vulnerable areas and protect its equipment and customers.

“Nearly four years later, the company has completed little such work,” The Journal reports. “Between 2019 and 2022, it invested less than $245,000 on wildfire-specific projects on the island, regulatory filings show. It didn’t seek state approval to raise rates to pay for broad wildfire-safety improvements until 2022, and has yet to receive it.”

Following its 2019 press release regarding the risk of wildfires, Hawaiian Electric, over the following two years, “made only passing reference to wildfire mitigation,” according to The Journal, which cites filings with the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission.

Instead, former regulators and energy company officials said, the utility was more concerned with procuring renewable energy.

The Journal reports:

Hawaii has been on a push to convert to renewables since 2008, when a run-up in oil prices sent electrical rates at Hawaiian Electric—which relied on petroleum imports for 80% of its energy supply—through the roof. In 2015, lawmakers passed legislation mandating that the state derive 100% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045, the first such requirement in the U.S.

The company dove into reaching the goals, stating in 2017 that it would reach the benchmark five years ahead of schedule.

In 2019, under pressure to replace the output of two conventional power plants set to retire, the company sought to contract for 900 megawatts of renewable energy, the most it had pursued at any one time.

“Looking back with hindsight, the business opportunities were on the generation side, and the utility was going out for bid with all these big renewable-energy projects,” Doug McLeod, who was for several years the Maui county energy commissioner, said. “But in retrospect, it seems clear, we weren’t as focused on these fire risks as we should have been.”


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