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Saturday, August 12, 2023
August 12, 2023 News Read
By Andrew Walden @ 8:37 PM :: 3406 Views

It was 125 years ago today: Hawaii Becomes US Territory

Tokuda: Hawaii Emergency Planners 'underestimated the lethality, the quickness of fire'

'All of Lahaina Gone': 67 Dead, 100s Missing, 1,700 Buildings Destroyed

OHA: Lahaina Fires Caused by 'Western Forces'

Lahaina Fire Recovery: How You Can Help

Lahaina Fire: Attorney General to review decision-making

Hawaii Libertarians Coalesce with Other 3rd Party Activists, Elect New Leadership

City to temporarily suspend short-term vacation rental laws in response to Maui wildfires

“Near Riot” between residents, Maui police shuts down limited access to Lahaina

SA: … Less than five hours after Maui County officials opened Honoapiilani Highway at noon to allow Lahaina residents to return for the first time since Tuesday’s wildfires destroyed the town, police closed the road in both directions after reported confrontations broke out between residents and police over access to closed areas.

Traffic had been flowing relatively smoothly through the Maalaea checkpoint before then, with police screening motorists to make sure that only Lahaina residents with identification, or visitors who could prove they were hotel guests in West Maui, could be let in.

Around 4:30 p.m. motorists waiting in a long line of cars on the Wailuku side of the checkpoint watched nearly 20 police cars and an ambulance speed by toward Lahaina.

A short while later, police officers walking along the line of stopped cars informed motorists that the road was closed indefinitely in both directions.

When asked for more information, an officer said a large number of vehicles were parked along the Lahaina Bypass and people had been walking into prohibited areas makai of the bypass, and that some of them became “emotional” when told by police to leave the area.

A second officer added that a near riot broke out in Lahaina between about 100 people and officers….

read … Altercation between residents, Maui police shuts down limited access to Lahaina

Hawaii utility faces scrutiny for not cutting power to reduce fire risks--Lines Not Buried

WaPo: … Hawaiian Electric, the utility that oversees Maui Electric and provides service to 95 percent of the state’s residents, did not deploy what’s known as a “public power shutoff plan,” which involves intentionally cutting off electricity to areas where big wind events could spark fires. A number of states including California have increasingly adopted this safety strategy after what were then the nation’s most destructive and deadliest fires, in 2017 and 2018. ….

Hawaiian Electric was aware that a power shut-off was an effective strategy, documents show, but had not adopted it as part of its fire mitigation plans, according to the company and two former power and energy officials interviewed by The Washington Post. Nor, in the face of predicted dangerous winds, did it act on its own, utility officials said, fearing uncertain consequences.

The decision to avoid shutting off power is reflective of the utility’s struggles to bolster its aging and vulnerable infrastructure against wildfires, said Jennifer Potter, who lives in Lahaina and was a member of the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission until just nine months ago.

“They were not as proactive as they should have been,” Potter said about Hawaiian Electric’s fire-prevention planning, adding that there had not been any real meaningful action to “address some of those inadequacies in terms of wildfire.”…

Doug McLeod, a former energy commissioner for Maui County, also said the utility was aware of the need for a regular shut-down system and to bury lines, especially given the “number of close calls in the past.”

Earlier this week, high winds caused widespread damage to utility infrastructure. Photos and videos show power lines snapped in trees and swinging in the air. The intense gusts knocked down about 30 utility poles across the region, many onto trees and roads, complicating evacuations, according to Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen. He confirmed that some lines on the poles were energized when they hit the ground….

In the meantime, Hawaiian Electric is rejecting suggestions that it could have done more to protect public safety.

In a statement, the utility said it has a “robust wildfire mitigation and grid resiliency program” that includes managing vegetation, hardening its power systems and inspecting its infrastructure. It also said it followed protocols, including “not enabling the automatic reclosure of circuits that may open during a weather event.”

Such a procedure prevents a line from continuing to shower sparks after it has fallen, but does not prevent the initial spark, said Michael Wara, a wildfire expert who directs the Climate and Energy Policy Program at Stanford University. That’s the intent of a “public power shutoff plan,” a strategy with serious trade-offs.

Shutting down power is an agonizing decision for utility executives, since it disrupts lives and generates political blowback, especially if the anticipated wind event does not trigger fires….

read … Hawaii utility faces scrutiny for not cutting power to reduce fire risks

How Failed communications left Lahaina residents trapped by fire

LAT: … Bulletins posted on Maui County's Facebook page indicate that the first report of a brush fire in Lahaina came in at 6:37 a.m. Tuesday, and evacuations were ordered within three minutes around Lahaina Intermediate School on the town's northeastern edge, at its highest elevations. The blaze hit as fire crews were battling another wildfire farther east.

But the sense of alarm seemed to fade by around 10 a.m., when Maui County said it had declared the Lahaina brush fire "100% contained," although it did warn of power outages limiting the ability to pump water and a report of a downed electric line in the area.

The focus at that point seemed to shift to the east.

Then came word that the Lahaina fire had flared up in the afternoon. Maui County said around 3:30 p.m. that the fire forced the closure of Lahaina Bypass, a major road also known as Route 3000 near the intermediate school. The message on Facebook said evacuations were occurring in that area.

The blaze began burning homes in that upper area, Maui County Fire Chief Brad Ventura said. It then moved downhill, southwest toward the coast, following prevailing winds and toward the Kahoma neighborhood. Eventually, virtually all of central Lahaina was reduced to ash….

read … Chaos and terror: Failed communications left Maui residents trapped by fire. Scores died

Maui’s Top Emergency Officials Were Off Island As Wildfires Hit Lahaina

CB: … Neither Maui’s fire chief nor its top emergency management official were on the Valley Isle on Tuesday despite the wildfires there being well underway.

Further, on Thursday county officials couldn’t or wouldn’t say when or if the evacuation order for Lahaina was issued or how those plans had unfolded two nights earlier when fire swiftly consumed the town, leaving at least 55 people confirmed dead.

Maui authorities would not give a timeline when a reporter asked them to clarify at a press conference Thursday.

Maui’s fire chief, Bradford Ventura, said in that press briefing that the fire reached Lahaina so quickly that residents of the first neighborhood it hit “were basically self-evacuating with fairly little notice.”…

read … Maui’s Top Emergency Officials Were Off Island As Wildfires Hit Lahaina

State Launching Hawaii Fire Relief Housing Program

SA: … In an interview on CNN, Green said that there are also more than 1,000 people “that we are still connecting with. We’re not searching for them, per se.

“We had several hundred homes that did burn and those homes will be assessed in the coming days, starting tomorrow morning, with the FEMA team and people who can identify tragically whether someone has perished in their home.”

Green also said “without a doubt there will be more fatalities” and that officials should have “as close to a complete assessment” in the next week.

He also said the state is launching the Hawaii Fire Relief Housing Program which will use short-term rentals to house the thousands of Maui residents who have been displaced The state will cover the cost and is discussing the program with FEMA, Green said.

Asked about reports and criticisms that the public was not warned sufficiently about the Lahaina fire, Green said he has authorized a “comprehensive review” to find out exactly what happened and when.

But he repeated that the combination of high winds fueled by a passing hurricane and drought conditions created an unprecedented catastrophe….

Mayor: Honolulu suspending the short-term vacation rental 30–day minimum rental period requirement to increase the availability of temporary housing on Oʻahu.

read … Lahaina fire becomes deadliest natural disaster in state history; death toll now at 67

Trial set to start for adoptive parents accused of killing 6-year-old girl

SA: … The highly anticipated murder trial for the adoptive parents of Isabella Kalua, who are accused of starving, beating, caging and killing the 6-year-old Waimanalo girl two years ago, remains on the court calendar for Aug. 28 after a status conference Friday….

RELATED: Lawsuit Coming: Murder of Ariel Sellers Reaches Probate Court

read … Trial set to start for adoptive parents accused of killing 6-year-old girl

Green’s Housing Emergency Panel ‘hard-to-hear’--activist excluded from meeting

SA: … About 28 of the working group’s 36 members joined the meeting, with most of them sitting around a long conference table in Green’s office and a few attending via videoconference.

In an effort to be transparent, given that public meeting rules are among regulations suspended under the housing emergency, officials streamed the meeting on the Office of the Governor of Hawaii Facebook page.

However, online audio was sporadic and it was unclear who a few of the meeting participants were or what was said at times….

David Henkin, senior attorney for environmental law firm Earthjustice, complained on the meeting’s Facebook chat feature that he couldn’t hear things online after being blocked from observing in person.

Henkin claims that the emergency proclamation doesn’t suspend a statute requiring all meetings of local government entities including boards and commissions be open to the public.

Henkin said Jeremy Lakin, Green’s deputy general counsel, denied him access after state Deputy Attorney General Linda Chow advised that Henkin should be allowed into the meeting….

Organizers of the panel expect meetings will be held on the last Tuesday of every month, with the next one tentatively scheduled for Aug. 29.

No applications for housing development approvals have been submitted to the panel yet, so Friday’s meeting was largely about describing who members are and letting them ask about the process.

There are 36 panelists, though only 23 at a time will review and make decisions on a single project application because several positions are county specific. For instance, a representative of the mayor of a county or a utility company serving a county will only engage with projects in their county….

Medeiros isn’t a panel member but can allow housing projects initiated by a county or the state to use the special regulations instead of the panel, and make some but not all approval decisions….

Tanaka also twice tried to ask about the meeting being open to the public and couldn’t get an answer.

Another panel member, Trisha Kehaulani Watson of environmental consulting firm Honua Consulting LLC, asked for Tanaka’s question to be addressed apart from the meeting because panel members are busy and because “I actually got real questions.”

Watson wanted to know about how much advance time members would have to review applications, how many applications there may be and if members can point out issues with applications before meetings….

WHT: The group also did not discuss whether any projects approved through the group would be reserved for Hawaii residents or would qualify as affordable housing.

read … Emergency housing panel shares hard-to-hear stories

Lahaina Fire News:

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