HONOLULU (KHON2) — Getting to the bottom of what went wrong in Lahaina, and whether anything could have been prevented, is now the topic of a growing number of investigations.
The Maui County Council began debate today on whether to launch an inquiry. Congress has called HECO and state officials to Washington, and there’s a state Attorney General investigation underway right now. Friday, Sept. 15, Always Investigating met with the head of the team in charge of that A.G. review.
The state has contracted the UL Fire Safety Research Institute to disect what state and county agencies did or did not do before, during and after the blaze that made a difference or could have.
“We need to kind of peel back that onion and understand how and what contributed to this event of worse because it played a huge role,” said Derek Alkonis of the UL Fire Safety Research Institute. “How this fuels their role, and in contributing to this event, the structures and in the vehicles and the access and all the policies and procedures and the preventative policies and things that were in place, you know, did they work?”
Their role is not to determine cause and origin. That’s up to the Maui Fire Department which has been working with federal ATF investigators.
In a statement from Jason Chudy of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Chudy stated,
Their work is far from complete. Due to the complex size of, and multiple scenes in, the investigative area and I would not expect anything turned over to Maui for the foreseeable future weeks if not a few months.”
KHON2 wanted to know how much latitude the research institute has to really dig deep.
GINA: “You’re a state contractor, do you have the independence and authority to research and address a y areas of State accountability while working as a state contractor?”
Alkonis: “Absolutely. Absolutely. And we wouldn’t be here unless we were independent. I mean, that’s, that and the other projects we’ve participated in similar to this, we are independent. We report the facts and We provide you with an analysis of what happened. And then it’s the the agents responsibility to act on those.”
To watch the full interview with Alkonis click here.
Meanwhile, the County Council took up a resolution to require the Fire Chief, Police Chief , Head of Emergency Management and Public Works Director to answer what their departments did, could, or should have done.
“In 2018 the community of Lahaina we engaged in the disaster response much like the entire island of Maui did this time, and then, as now, we asked why we weren’t prepared, why the county agencies response was so lacking and how we could do better next time,” said Lahaina resident Jen Mather.
The council deferred the resolution to a committee of the whole.
“Right now we have too many vulnerable communities still out here in the county that we need to investigate what went wrong right now so that we can implement change right now, there’s no time to wait for an after action report two-three years from now, we need to investigate as we’re going through it so we can pivot to make better decisions for our people right now,” continued Mather.