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Investigation into Maui Wildfires Intensifies: Three Departments Subpoenaed

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Rafia Tasleem
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Investigation into Maui Wildfires Intensifies: Three Departments Subpoenaed

On November 28, subpoenas were served to three departments of Maui County for their failure to adhere to deadlines set by a state investigation scrutinizing the county's response to the devastating wildfires that occurred on August 8. The fires resulted in the loss of over 100 lives, displacement of 7,500 individuals, and property damages estimated at $5.5 billion. The issuance of subpoenas indicates a significant advance in the ongoing state inquiry, which aims to understand the actions and potential shortcomings of the local government's response to the disaster.

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Departments under Scrutiny

The three departments served with subpoenas are the Maui Emergency Management Agency, the County of Maui Department of Public Works, and the County of Maui Department of Water Supply. These agencies have faced public scrutiny for their responses to the wildfires, with particular attention on their actions and potential shortcomings during the crisis.

The Maui Emergency Management Agency

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The Maui Emergency Management Agency, once headed by Herman Andaya who has since resigned citing health reasons, has been a focal point of the investigation. Controversy arose over Andaya's decision not to sound emergency sirens, a move which many believe could have saved lives. The attorney general has requested records of all communications made by or to Andaya from the evening before the fires through the subsequent days.

The County of Maui Department of Water Supply

Another agency under the lens, the County of Maui Department of Water Supply, led by John Stufflebean, has also faced scrutiny. Stufflebean acknowledged that the county's water system 'depressurized' as the fires spread. The attorney general has raised concerns about the possible pressure loss in the water system and has sought information on this issue.

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Investigation Progress & Purpose

Despite the challenges, the investigation has seen cooperation from the Maui fire and police departments. The attorney general's office has engaged the non-profit Underwriters Laboratories Fire Safety Research Institute to assess the policies and performance of both Hawaii and Maui County agencies in preparing for and responding to the wildfires. The investigation aims to provide a scientific analysis of how the wildfire unfolded and to develop new policies and procedures to save lives and property in the future.

The Aftermath

The tragic wildfires in Maui have had a deep emotional and economic impact on the region, with ongoing questions and lawsuits seeking to determine responsibility and identify potential preventive measures for future disasters. The attorney general's office remains committed to uncovering the truth and ensuring accountability, emphasizing the importance of a comprehensive, independent investigation to reassure residents and enhance safety in Hawaii.

As the investigation progresses, the focus remains on gathering critical facts from key stakeholders to advance the fact-finding phase and provide a comprehensive timeline of the disaster. The ultimate goal is to learn from the tragic events of August 8 and implement measures that will safeguard lives and property in the future.

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