News USA Downed power lines may have caused the deadly fires in Hawaii

Downed power lines may have caused the deadly fires in Hawaii

Downed power lines may have caused the deadly fires in Hawaii

After waking up to strong winds battering his Maui neighborhood, Shane Treu stepped outside at dawn to see a wooden light pole snap suddenly with a flash, its sparking wire falling to the dry grass below and igniting. quickly a line of flames.

The man called 911 and then went on Facebook to live stream his attempt to put out the Lahaina, Hawaii, fire, including dousing his property with a hose.

“I heard a noise,” the 49-year-old tourist worker told Associated Press. “It was almost like someone had set off fireworks. This just went up the hill to a bigger clump of grass and with that strong wind the fire was already burning.”

Video by Treu and others captured the first moments of what would become the deadliest wildfire in the United States in more than a century. Now, the images have become key evidence pointing to the possible cause of the downed power line. Hawaiian Electric Co. faces criticism for not shutting off power in the face of high wind warnings and keeping it on even as dozens of poles began toppling.

A class action lawsuit has already been filed to hold the company liable for the death of at least 99 people. The lawsuit points to documents from the company itself that show it knew that preemptive power shutoffs, like those used in California, were an effective strategy to prevent wildfires, but never adopted them.

“No one likes to shut off the power, it’s inconvenient, but any utility that is at significant risk of wildfire, especially wind-driven wildfire, needs to do it and needs to have a plan in place,” said Michael Wara. , an expert on wildfires and director of the Climate and Energy Policy Program at Stanford University. “In this case, the utility company did not do it.”

“It may turn out that there are other causes of this fire, and that the power line is not the main cause,” Wara said. “But if it is, wow, this didn’t have to happen.”

Hawaiian Electric declined to comment on the lawsuit’s allegations or whether it had ever shut off power due to high winds. But President and CEO Shelee Kimura said at a news conference Monday that many factors enter into that decision, including the possible effect on people who rely on specialized medical equipment and firefighters who need power to pump water.

“Even where this measure has been used, it is controversial and not universally accepted,” he said.

Maui Police Chief John Pelletier also expressed his frustration at the news conference that people were complaining both about the power not going out sooner and about too many people missing due to lack of mobile phone service and internet.

“Do you want notifications or do you want the power to go out?” he said. “You can’t do both.”

Source: VOA Espanol

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