Did downed power lines and dry leaves cause Hawaii wildfires?

Lahaina power lines blamed for fast spread of fire as locals share videos from day of the blaze and others sue electricity companies for not turning off supply at first sign of danger

  • Hawaii death toll has reached 96 amid claims down powered lines caused blazes
  • Monica and Rede Eder had their house in Lahaina destroyed by devastating fires
  • Suing Hawaiian Electric Industries, parent company of HECO, MECO and HELCO

Lahaina locals are blaming downed power lines and unkempt brush for the devastating wildfire that killed 96 people last week as new videos show flames dancing at the feet of electricity pylons moments before the town went up in smoke. 

Officials are yet to confirm the precise origins of the fire, or say why the siren system that should have given locals enough time to evacuate failed. 

So far 96 deaths have been confirmed, but officials have only been able to confirm the identities of two of the victims because the others’ bodies were so badly burned.  

One couple has already filed a lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric Industries – which serves 95 percent of Hawaii‘s 1.4 million residents – and its companies HECO, MECO and HELCO.

New video posted on August 8 at 6.43am by a local Lahaina resident shows a downed power line and flames

The resident in the video said he was trying to put the blaze out with his ‘little hose’ but couldn’t 

The couple claim that the power companies ‘inexcusably kept their power lines energized during forecasted high fire danger conditions’, Fox News reports.

New videos taken at 6.43am by local Shane Treu shows the flames and a downed power line. 

‘This is right across from my house,  power line went down,’ he says.  

It comes amid questions being asked about how prepared authorities were for the catastrophe, despite the islands’ exposure to natural hazards such as tsunamis, earthquakes and violent storms. 

Residents were forced to flee on foot after seemingly receiving no alert from the state’s emergency warning systems.

The disaster is the deadliest wildfire the US has faced in the past century as the death toll surpassed 2018’s Camp Fire in California, which virtually wiped the small town of Paradise off the map and killed 86 people.

Officials are yet to confirm what exactly started the fires but residents are growing increasingly convinced it was the downed power lines

Dry, untamed bush beneath electricity wires are shown on another part of the island, after the fire

Monica and Rede Eder, who own a house in the seaside town which has been razed to the ground by the wildfires, suing four power firms for keeping their lines energized despite ‘high fire danger’ warnings

An aerial view of Lahaina shows the sheer scale of destruction that the wildfires have caused in Hawaii

The historic town of Lahaina, which is in Maui County, has suffered black after block of complete devastation from the wildfires; an aerial view shows charred cars demolished buildings on Friday

An aerial photo taken on Friday shows the smoldering in Lahaina as Hawaii battles with the deadliest US wildfires in more than 100 years

READ MORE: Biden is slammed for REFUSING to comment on rising death toll in Hawaii after spending two hours on the beach in Delaware 

Monica and Rede’s lawsuit alleges that the National Weather Service had issued a High Wind Watch and Red Flag Warning which cautioned energized power lines could increase the rate in which the fires could spread. 

They claim that by acting improperly during the devastating fires, the power companies ’caused loss of life, serious injuries, destruction of hundreds of homes and businesses, displacement of thousands of people, and damage to many of Hawaii’s historic and cultural sites.’

The suit said: ‘Scores of people burned to death. Other victims suffered severe burns, smoke inhalation and additional serious injuries.’

Hawaiian Electric have continued to say they will not ‘comment on pending litigation.

A spokesman added: ‘Our immediate focus is on supporting emergency response efforts on Maui and restoring power for our customers and communities as quickly as possible. 

‘At this early stage, the cause of the fire has not been determined and we will work with the state and county as they conduct their review.’

LippSmith LLP and other law firms have also filed a class-action lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric, alleging that its downed power lines caused the fire, and that company officials ‘inexcusably kept their power lines energized’ despite fire warnings. 

Monica and Rede Eder (pictured in 2014) made the lawsuit against Hawaiian Electric Industries – which serves 95 percent of Hawaii’s 1.4 million residents – and its companies HECO, MECO and HELCO

The couple claim that the power companies ‘inexcusably kept their power lines energized during forecasted high fire danger conditions’. Pictured: The The hall of historic Waiola Church in Lahaina and nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames on August 8

A wasteland of burned out homes and obliterated communities is left on Thursday in Lahaina

Destruction is seen in a neighborhood on Sunday in Lahaina as raging flamed ripped through the historic town

States such as California, which suffers a large number of wildfires, frequently deploy a ‘public power shutoff plan,’ which involves intentionally cutting off electricity to areas where big wind events could spark fires.

It comes as the death toll in Hawaii ticked towards 100 Sunday, fueling criticism that government inaction contributed to the heavy loss of life.

President Joe Biden has been blasted for refusing to comment on the rising death toll as he spent two hours relaxing on the beach in Delaware on Sunday.

The 80-year-old was seen reclining on a sun lounger on Rehoboth Beach, near his holiday home in the state. Earlier, he attended mass at St. Edmond’s Catholic Church in the resort town.

As Biden left the beach, the White House correspondent for Bloomberg asked for his response to the wildfires that have killed 93 people.

‘No comment,’ the president replied.

Celebrities including Paris Hilton have also come under fire for holidaying in Maui despite Hawaii tourism officials begging visitors to leave to free up hotel rooms for homeless residents.

The wildfires have ravaged the historic coastal city and prompted anger over the government’s response

Burnt trees and the ruins of houses are what is left after the deadly fire burnt through Lahaina

Oprah Winfrey’s camera crew was also denied access to an emergency shelter on Maui, after she had attempted to bring a CBS crew inside the facility where survivors continue to struggle in the aftermath of the fires.

At least 96 people were confirmed to have died as of Sunday night, but officials warned the figure was likely to rise as recovery crews with cadaver dogs work their way through hundreds of homes and burned-out vehicles in Lahaina.

The historic coastal town on the island of Maui was almost destroyed by the fast-moving inferno early Wednesday morning, with survivors saying there had been no warnings.

When asked Sunday why none of the island’s sirens had been activated, Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono said she would wait for the results of an investigation announced by the state’s attorney general.

‘I’m not going to make any excuses for this tragedy,’ Hirono, a Democrat, told CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’

President Joe Biden has been blasted for refusing to comment on the rising death toll as he spent two hours relaxing on the beach in Delaware on Sunday

Paris Hilton and her husband Carter Reum are pictured on Saturday enjoying the beach in Wailea, Maui. Tourists have been told to leave Hawaii amid the fires

‘We are really focused, as far as I’m concerned, on the need for rescue, and, sadly, the location of more bodies.’

More than 2,200 buildings were damaged or destroyed as the fire tore through Lahaina, according to official estimates, wreaking $5.5 billion in damage and leaving thousands homeless.

‘The remains we’re finding are from a fire that melted metal,’ said Maui Police Chief John Pelletier. ‘When we pick up the remains… they fall apart.’

That was making identification difficult, he added, appealing for those with missing relatives to give DNA samples that might speed up the process.

Pelletier said cadaver dogs still had a vast area to search in the hunt for what could still be hundreds of people who are unaccounted for.

‘We’re going as fast as we can. But just so you know, three percent – that’s what’s been searched with the dogs,’ he said.

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