Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
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Hawaiian Electric Company is forcefully denying accusations that it is responsible for setting off the deadly wildfire on Maui that killed more than 100 people.
Last week, Maui County officials filed a lawsuit claiming the utility company "acted negligently by failing to power down their electrical equipment despite a National Weather Service Red Flag Warning on August 7th." Officials, moreover, asserted that "energized and downed power lines ignited dry fuel such as grass and brush, causing the fires" and argued that Hawaiian Electric failed to maintain the safety of its systems.
But none of that is true, according to Hawaiian Electric.
Instead, the company explained in a response that power lines had been "de-energized" for more than six hours when the fire that eventually destroyed Lahaina was ignited.
Hawaiian Electric claimed there were two fires on Aug. 8, the first of which was ignited around 6:30 in the morning by downed power lines. Firefighters responded to that fire, reported it was "100% contained," and then allegedly left the scene and declared it "extinguished," according to Hawaiian Electric.
But it was a second fire, spotted around 3 p.m. that afternoon near the location of the first blaze, that is responsible for the massive fire that eventually raced to Lahaina, the company said. Hawaiian Electric claimed its employees were the witnesses who first spotted the new fire and reported it to authorities.
"Power had been out for more than six hours by that time," the company explained. "There was no electricity flowing through the wires in the area or anywhere else on the West Maui coast. Hawaiian Electric has informed ATF investigators of the availability of records that demonstrate these facts."
In light of the company's version of events, Shelee Kimura, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric, called Maui County's lawsuit "factually and legally irresponsible."
"We were surprised and disappointed that the County of Maui rushed to court even before completing its own investigation," Kimura also said. "Unfortunately, the county's lawsuit may leave us no choice in the legal system but to show its responsibility for what happened that day."
Interestingly, what is not being blamed for the wildfire — either by Maui County officials or Hawaiian Electric — is climate change. That sticks out after repeated attempts to pin blame for the wildfire on climate change.
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Chris Enloe is a staff writer for Blaze News