Maui, Hawaii — The province of Maui has sued the Hawaiian Electric Company, alleging that its negligence led to the deadliest wildfires in the United States in the past 100 years. The county has suffered an estimated $5.5 billion in damage from the fires in Lahaina and Kula, and says the deadly disaster could have been avoided.
The civil suit, filed Thursday, seeks a jury trial. It targets Hawaiian Electric, or HECO, and several related companies. Seeking “punitive and exemplary damages” and reimbursement of costs and lost revenue from the fires.
HECO is a publicly traded company offering its services 95% of Hawaii electric customers.
The exact cause of the fires in Maui is Investigation by federal officials. But dozens of Hawaiian Electric poles and power lines were downed by the high winds, which fanned the flames. The videos have been posted on social media Popped in to show power lines Starting firesExperts indicated that they believe power lines are likely to be a major factor.
The county says the utilities did not have a plan to cut the power
The District of Maui accuses HECO and its affiliates of two major failures: failure to properly maintain the electrical system and power grid; and “failing to turn off their electrical appliances despite a red flag warning issued by the National Weather Service on August 7th.”
The county says utilities should have had a plan in place to cut power when conditions became dangerous.
“The practice of disconnecting power from power lines during fire weather conditions is common in the western United States,” the lawsuit states. He notes that large facilities in California that are prone to wildfires have implemented “public safety power cut-off” plans to prevent fires during high-risk conditions.
The suit states, “The Defendants never created the PSPS.”
The survivors of the fire in Lahaina also said Falling poles and wires slowed them down As they try to flee what has become a deadly disaster, they say their path to safety is blocked by utility trucks on the roads.
HECO said the power cuts are controversial
When asked last week why the company didn’t cut power when the wind picked up, Shelley Kimura, president and CEO of Hawaiian Electric, said the PSPS plans were controversial.
Kimura said the programs require coordination with first responders, and they can also pose a risk to vulnerable people with specialized medical equipment.
She said the utilities would conduct their own investigations into the fires.
The county suit was filed in 2nd Circuit Court in Willowco. In response to other lawsuits related to the fire, HECO previously declined to comment, citing its policies on pending lawsuits.