Conditions Surrounding Maui Fire’s Deadly Blaze Explained

( – While the cause of the deadly wildfires in Hawaii has not been officially determined, investigators are looking to determine if downed power lines and decisions by the state’s primary power company Hawaiian Electric may have played a role, CBS News reported.

The wildfires killed more than 110 people, but Governor Josh Green told CBS News last week that the death toll is likely to rise as rescue and recovery efforts continue.

Much of the state was under a fire risk warning before the wildfires broke out as dangerous wind conditions from Category 4 Hurricane Dora moved across the Pacific to the south of the Hawaiian islands.

At a press briefing last Wednesday Hawaii Army National Guard Commander Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara said what ignited the fires was unknown but the National Weather Service did give advanced warning that the islands were “in a red flag situation.” He said the dry conditions over a long period coupled with low humidity and high winds from the hurricane “set the conditions for the wildfires.”

While the islands have a statewide outdoor warning system siren to notify residents in advance about natural or manmade disasters, including volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, wildfires, terror attacks, or hazardous spills, the sirens were not activated last Tuesday.

In a press conference on August 16, Maui Emergency Management Agency chief Herman Andaya defended the decision not to activate the sirens, saying that the public has been trained to “seek higher ground” when the sirens sound.

Andaya argued that if the sirens went off on August 8, the people would have gone to the mountainside and directly into the fire. The agency opted instead to use the Wireless Emergency Alert system, which sends text alerts to cell phones, and the Emergency Alert System, which uses radio and television.

However, with no power in the area, television and radio alerts had little effect. Meanwhile, residents reported that they received no text alerts on their phones.

On Thursday, after CBS News reported that Herman Andaya has no background in emergency disaster response, the Emergency Management chief has since resigned from his position citing “health reasons.”

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