A general view shows the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, Hawaii, Thursday, Aug. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)COPYRIGHT 2023 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
A lawsuit filed Monday alleges that local officials’ failure to sound alarms during the fire that ravaged the Hawaiian towns of Lahaina and Kula last month led to the unnecessary death of the plaintiff’s daughter— the first legal motion to blame Maui County or the state of Hawaii for deaths related to the fire.
The lawsuit, filed by Harold Wells in Hawaii state court, alleges that Rebecca Rans, Wells’ daughter who died in the fire, could’ve been saved had Maui County and the State of Hawaii sounded alarms to warn residents of the fires.
Maui County officials have said they didn’t sound the alarms because they were concerned people would confuse them with tsunami warnings and flee to higher ground where the fire was worse.
The lawsuit addresses this argument, saying “such logic cannot stand,” arguing that fleeing residents would’ve clearly seen the flames and smoke.
The lawsuit also argues that the governmental entities failed to address growing fire risks in Maui by enacting better regulations on electrical infrastructure that started the initial flames or managing the vegetation that spread the fire correctly—it specifically cites a plot of land owned by Maui County that allegedly fed the flames that burned down Rans’ home.
The lawsuit also names as a defendant utility company Hawaiian Electric, which has already been sued multiple times and has acknowledged that its downed electric poles started the initial blaze, but refutes that it is responsible for the full fire.
Hawaii Attorney General Anne E. Lopez’s office told Forbes, “The Department of the Attorney General was just served with the complaint this morning, and we are in the process of reviewing it.” (Forbes has also reached out to Maui County for comment.)