Lahaina Firefighters Reportedly Faced Water Shortage While Trying To Put Out Flames

Maui Wildfire Crisis: Top Emergency Official Reportedly Tenders Resignation

Home / News / Maui Wildfire Crisis: Top Emergency Official Reportedly Tenders Resignation

By Afouda Bamidele on August 18, 2023 at 1:15 PM EDT

The head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), Herman Andaya, has given in to the backlash. Since the wildfires began on Tuesday, August 8, over 100 people, including children, largely in the area of the seaside community of Lahaina, have died.

In light of the devastating incident, many believe that the death toll would have been lesser if the response from emergency services was different. The criticism has now resulted in Andaya abruptly resigning, even though he previously stood by his team's decision not to sound alarms earlier.

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Herman Andaya Resigned With Immediate Effect From His Job, Blames His Health

Just a day after he defended his decision of not using outdoor alert sirens during the wildfires that devastated Lahaina, it has been reported that Andaya has quit. The resignation, which he claimed was for "health reasons," was accepted by Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen. In a statement issued, Bissen declared:

"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 and I look forward to making that announcement soon."

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Jeff Bezos & Fiancée Lauren Sanchez Dedicate $100 Million To Maui Fund For Wildfire Relief
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Andaya previously mentioned defense had come when he was asked during a news conference if he regretted not having sounded the sirens. Without hesitating, the former Maui County EMA Administrator responded, "I do not." Per NBC News he explained:

"The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the siren is sounded. Had we sounded the siren that night, we were afraid that people would have gone [to the mountainside]. And if that's the case, then they would have gone into the fire."

After noting that Maui County's website approves its All-Hazard Statewide Outdoor Warning Siren System for the use of wildfires, the outlet shared that Andaya asserted Hawaiian counties "will tell you that sirens have not been used for brush fires."

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Going further, he said that the MEMA uses Wireless Emergency Alert and the Emergency Alert System, which broadcast through radio, television, and mobile phone text messages instead. While a cause for the wildfire has yet to be determined, officials have said that the fire in Lahaina was one of three that erupted on the island that day. 

Additionally, Hawaii Attorney General, Anne Lopez, has said her office will conduct a "comprehensive review of decision-making and standing policies" before and during the wildfires. Similarly, Governor Josh Green chipped in on Wednesday:

"We view this as a way to learn and to share, in this case from our tragedy, to share how to best protect people across the planet."

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Firefighters Encountered A Water System Failure

Hawaii Wildfires: Paradise Burning in Lahaina

Earlier this week, firefighters faced a major setback when they found out there was no water in their pumps to combat the flames. According to The Blast, one firefighter, Keahi Ho, who was on duty during the fire outbreak in Lahaina, simply recalled, "There wasn't any water in the hydrants."

Besides worsening the situation during what has now been dubbed the deadliest wildfire in the United States in over 100 years, the failure of the town's water system has made residents consider how they can better prepare for future challenges like stronger winds and dry conditions.

Expanding on the subject, Edwin 'Ekolu' Lindsey III, a Lahaina resident that lost his home in the fires, opened up about his conversation with a firefighter. As he claimed, the firefighter had informed him that the crews were demoralized because limited resources stopped them from doing much to stop the fire. 

The chat ignited Lindsey's hopes that the water problems and other challenges the community faced, like struggling to evacuate people, will be important topics in discussions about what can be learned from the tragedy.

In the same vein, John Stufflebean, who is in charge of the water supply for the county, disclosed that backup generators were really important in making sure there was enough water during the fire.

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Before the water shortage happened, the legendary Oprah Winfrey appeared at a local venue, where she contributed to the relief efforts. The "What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing" co-author engaged in multiple hands-on tasks, including fluffing and arranging pillows to provide comfort to displaced individuals.

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