Maui’s Emergency Official Resigns Amid Intense Controversy

( – The death toll in Maui continues to rise in the wake of its devastating wildfires. Maui County officials recently confirmed that 114 people had died as of August 19. So far, responders have searched 85% of the impacted area. Amid those ongoing rescue and recovery efforts, Maui’s top emergency official resigned amid intense controversy. 

On August 17, the Maui County website issued a press release announcing that Maui Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Administrator Herman Andaya tendered his resignation, citing health reasons for his sudden departure. Mayor Richard Bissen accepted his request. Noting the grave nature of the crisis surrounding the wildfires, Bissen indicated that his team would attempt to fill that “key position as quickly as possible.”

Andaya’s resignation came less than 24 hours after he wrestled with reporters over his agency’s response to the wildfires during a press conference. Residents and media outlets have expressed concerns regarding MEMA’s decision not to activate alert sirens during the wildfire’s spread.

Andaya defended that decision, telling reporters that MEMA used the alert sirens to warn residents of approaching tsunamis. As a result, the public has been conditioned to “seek higher ground” when they hear the warning horns. In this instance, sounding the alarms could have driven locals toward the wildfires.

“People would have gone mauka,” Andaya explained, using a local term meaning toward the mountains. He stressed that MEMA officials were concerned that residents “would have gone into the fire” had they followed standard disaster protocols.

On August 17, Attorney General Anne Lopez issued a press release announcing her decision to hire a “third-party” organization to review local and state officials’ response to the wildfires. She said she would contract those services from a private entity with emergency management experience.

Meanwhile, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) confirmed that investigators would probe the exact cause of the devastating wildfires. He told reporters that it wasn’t a criminal inquiry.

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