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Hawaii AG subpoenas 3 Maui agencies in continued push for ‘independent’ probe into deadly wildfires

Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez announced Monday that subpoenas have been served on three Maui agencies approximately four months after a series of wildfires devastated the island’s historic Lahaina district, displacing thousands and killing at least 100 people, according to the confirmed official death toll so far. 

The subpoenas served to the Maui Emergency Management Agency, the County of Maui Department of Public Works and the County of Maui Department of Water Supply will allow the attorney general to “collect information in a timely manner,” according to Lopez’s office. The first phase of the investigation, however, still has not been completed. 

When she was asked about the probe about a month after the wildfires ravaged Maui, Lopez told reporters that she hoped state and county employees would “voluntarily participate,” but now the subpoenas summon representatives from each of the three agencies to appear on Dec. 11 to give testimony and present documents for examination, NBC News reported. 

Lopez said in a news release Monday that her office “continues to aggressively push the first phase of the independent investigation into the Maui wildfires forward,” but stressed that “critical facts are still needed from several key stakeholders for Phase 1 to be completed.” 

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Once Maui’s top emergency management official, former administrator of the Maui Emergency Management Agency Herman Andaya resigned in mid-August one day after defending the decision not to sound warning sirens as wind whipped wildfires across the island and toward Lahaina. Andaya said during a press conference that sirens are usually used in cases of tsunamis, and there was concern people would have gone up into the mountainside, essentially toward the fires, if they sounded. 

Acknowledging how the Maui wildfires caused significant loss of life, more than $5.5 billion in damage and continue to take an economic toll, Lopez said in the news release that the “purpose of the independent investigation announced in August 2023 is to find the facts and develop new policies and procedures to save lives and property in the future.” 

“I remain personally invested in representing the truth, ensuring a comprehensive, independent investigation and communicating throughout this process,” Lopez said in a statement. “Our communities expect and deserve a safer Hawaiʻi.” NBC News reported the probe is not criminal in nature at this stage.

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Another official connected to the subpoenaed agencies, John Stufflebean, head of the Maui Department of Water Supply, told The New York Times in August that as the fire moved down the hillside, water began spewing out of the pipes of badly damaged properties, essentially depressurizing the system that also supplied hydrants. As a result, firetrucks that arrived at the scene and tapped into those hydrants could not access enough water pressure to contain the blaze. 

According to the attorney general’s office, the timeline for the release of the Phase 1 findings “is dependent on the Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) gaining access to all facts before completing Phase 1 and a comprehensive scientific analysis on how the fire incident unfolded.”

“Until that happens, this critical process cannot move forward,” Lopez said in a statement. “We appreciate the cooperation of the Maui fire and police departments, and while we continue to work through some issues, their leaders and line responders have been transparent and cooperative.” 

FSRI, billed as a research organization dedicated to addressing the world’s unresolved fire safety risks and emerging dangers, has been working within the impacted communities since the end of August with the goal of capturing “timely and accurate information while first responders can recall details of the wildfires.” 

Dr. Steve Kerber, vice president and executive director of FSRI, said the organization has conducted more than 100 conversations and viewed more than 1,000 personal videos and images shared by many of the residents affected by the wildfires. 

“We are committed to investigating all of the facts and that requires accessing real-time information as the fire situation unfolded,” Kerber said. The attorney general’s office said the FSRI team has been “scheduling time with local emergency services and federal, state, and local organizations that responded to the wildfires and can share their first-hand perspectives.” 

“The willingness of Lahaina community members to share their stories is vital and appreciated.” 

​U.S. News Today on Fox News

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