Maui’s emergency services chief resigns after facing criticism for not activating sirens during fire

by Michael Nguyen
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The Maui Emergency Management Agency’s chief, Herman Andaya, unexpectedly resigned on Thursday, following criticism of his handling of recent wildfires in Lahaina, which claimed at least 111 lives. The agency’s decision not to activate warning sirens, along with complications such as water shortages and congested escape routes, led to intense scrutiny from many locals. The absence of sirens was reported by The Big Big News as one of the multiple communication failures that escalated the chaos.

Mayor Richard Bissen promptly accepted Andaya’s immediate resignation, announced by the County of Maui on Facebook. Andaya cited health issues as the reason, without giving any further information.

Mayor Bissen emphasized the urgency to fill the critical position, saying, “Given the gravity of the crisis we are facing, my team and I will be placing someone in this key position as quickly as possible.”

Hawaii’s emergency siren system, one of the largest outdoor alert systems globally, wasn’t used during the wildfires. Andaya had earlier defended this decision, expressing fears that people would have moved inland, going towards the fire, a direction referred to locally as “mauka.”

The criticism continued with the local power utility facing backlash for leaving power on in the hurricane-driven strong winds that possibly contributed to the wildfires.

Efforts to assist the displaced residents are underway, with hotels prepared to accommodate them for at least seven months, and service providers offering meals and disaster aid. Additionally, Governor Josh Green is working to protect local landowners from exploitation and to halt land transactions in Lahaina, an area severely affected by the fires.

Investigations into the deadliest U.S. wildfires in over a century are ongoing. Meanwhile, the search for missing persons has expanded beyond Lahaina, and challenges such as intermittent cellphone service and misinformation on social media have contributed to the difficulties.

Former colleagues, including former Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa, expressed disappointment at Andaya’s resignation and spoke of his qualifications and dedication to the job. Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez has announced that an external organization will conduct an impartial review of the government’s response, which is expected to take several months.

The tragic event has left locals fearing the potential transformation of their town, while the underlying causes and consequences continue to unfold. Authorities remain focused on the restoration and rebuilding efforts in Maui, ensuring that the search for the missing continues and that adequate housing and support are provided to those affected by the catastrophe.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about resignation

Who resigned as the head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency?

Herman Andaya resigned as the head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency.

Why did Herman Andaya resign?

He resigned amid criticism for not activating warning sirens during the Lahaina wildfires, which led to intense scrutiny from residents.

What were the consequences of the Lahaina wildfires?

The Lahaina wildfires killed at least 111 people, and the lack of sirens, water shortages, and congested escape routes added to the chaos and criticism of the emergency response.

Was there an investigation announced regarding the handling of the wildfire?

Yes, Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez announced that an outside organization would conduct an impartial and independent review of the government’s response to the wildfires.

How are displaced residents being assisted after the wildfires?

Displaced residents are being accommodated in hotels for at least seven months, and services such as meals, counseling, financial assistance, and other disaster aid are being provided.

What is the significance of not using the sirens during the wildfires?

The decision not to use sirens was seen as a potential misstep, contributing to communication issues that added to the chaos. Hawaii has one of the largest systems of outdoor alert sirens in the world, and the failure to use them was a focal point of criticism.

Who accepted Andaya’s resignation, and what were the cited reasons?

Mayor Richard Bissen accepted Andaya’s immediate resignation. Andaya cited unspecified health reasons for his resignation, without providing further details.

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