Shelee Kimura Appears Before Congress on Maui Fires

( – A report shows Hawaiian Electric Co.’s president and other high-ranking government officials testified before Congress about the terrible flames that destroyed Lahaina. At least 97 people died, with many more still missing after wildfires raged through Maui in August.

Hawaiian Electric CEO and President Shelee Kimura, Hawaii’s Chief Energy Officer Mark Glick, and Hawaii Public Utilities Commission Chairman Leodoloff Asuncion Jr. were all questioned by a House committee recently.

According to an assessment from the Pacific Disaster Center at the University of Hawaii, damage caused by wildfires is estimated to be 4 to $6 billion. The underlying cause remains unknown. Approximately 86% of the structures destroyed were homes.

A video from the hearing shows legislators questioning the reliability of Hawaii’s power infrastructure. Committee Chair Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) asked why, when the National Weather Service issued red flag warnings, Hawaiian Electric did not immediately cut the power.

Kimura explained they began working on a strategy to reduce the risk of wildfires in 2019. The plans in other states with cut-off programs weren’t suitable for Hawaii. The business followed various procedures during heavy winds, and a cut-off was not one of them. The company is now reconsidering.

However, the strategy might not have helped because laws in other states shield power companies from responsibility in the event of an outage.

Hawaii’s chief energy officer, Mark Glick, said new policies are needed to manage vegetation to reduce the risk of power line damage and wildfire. Utility authorities need to make more of an effort to collaborate with private landowners.

According to Kimura, taking care of the grass beneath the power lines on private land is not a privilege granted to them.

A report reveals Maui’s emergency operations head’s failure to activate warning sirens during a devastating wildfire raises questions about his credibility. Maui’s emergency operations head, Herman Andaya, lacks disaster response training.

The devastating Maui fire started after midnight when most residents were sleeping. Andaya’s department was to sound emergency sirens, but they remained silent throughout the fire.

At a press conference, Andaya rationalized his choice to forgo sirens in favor of radio, television, and mobile devices. He claimed Hawaiians are conditioned to seek higher vantage points in reaction to sirens, which may have propelled them into the flames.

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