(Daily360.com) – As more details emerge about the devastating fires that engulfed West Maui observers have more questions than answers. Residents who survived the ordeal are telling stories about the one and only paved road out of Lahaina being blocked by Hawaiian Electric trucks. They say the electricians were replacing telephone poles and instructing residents to turn back despite the blackening sky and incoming smoke.
One resident who encountered this blockade said their actions “made no sense” and wondered why they would continue to work on placing poles while the winds were carrying the active fire. Some residents tragically perished in their vehicles, others abandoned their cars to jump into the nearby water or otherwise get past the blockade. The abandoned vehicles worsened the gridlock. The people who fared best were the ones who ignored the blockade and drove around it by leaving the paved road to the dirt alongside it or by heading the wrong way on the other side.
One resident named Kim Cuevas-Reyes told the Associated Press that had she not decided to drive around the blockade she and her children would have been faced with a deadly choice of either jumping into soon to be boiling water, or be engulfed by flames while sitting in the stopped car or perish from smoke inhalation. So far 115 people are confirmed dead with hundreds of others still listed as missing.
Hawaiian Electric has shouldered much of the blame for these fires beyond this blockade story. Multiple lawsuits have been or will be filed claiming the company’s inaction led to downed power lines igniting the dry brush which the winds then swept over the community burning over 2,000 acres. In recent days the company has pushed back stating they did de-energize the power lines at least six hours prior to the fire. They say there were two fires that day; the first was likely triggered by downed lines but that one was extinguished and they cut the power prior to the second more deadly fire.
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