Maui Fires: Deaths, Injuries, and Damage - Adamson Ahdoot

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Maui Fires Cause Irreparable Damage

August 23, 2023 María López Garcia
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Natural disasters strike without warning. The eruption of a volcano or a lightning strike can cause terrible forest fires that burn thousands of hectares. But, the statistics do not lie: 90% of fires are caused by human activity. These are often unintentionally negligent, causing widespread damage and loss of life. This was the case with the Maui fires. In such cases, who is responsible for the fires? Can the victims of the Maui fire receive compensation?

Yes, these fire survivors can receive financial damages after suffering burns or other health problems. This is what the state law of California says about personal injury resulting from negligent accidents. However, it is advisable to contact a burn injury lawyer as soon as possible if you have been hurt.

If you have been in a similar situation to our Hawaiian neighbors, do not hesitate to seek legal help. At Adamson Ahdoot, we have over 100 years of legal experience and know how to respond to negligent fire cases. We can help you get the compensation you deserve for your losses by calling us at (800) 310-1606.

To learn more about the legal options available to victims and family members affected by the Maui wildfires, continue reading this blog. We will explain not only the potential liabilities of this disaster, but also its causes, and the legal remedies available to victims.

Maui Fires Are the Worst Natural Disaster in Recent History

Two weeks after the Maui fires began, the flames are still not fully under control. The 8th of August will go down in history as the start of a blaze that changed the lives of thousands of people on the island. A tragedy that has claimed too many lives and caused severe damage to infrastructure and the environment.

Although more burned bodies are being discovered as the days go by, it has already been confirmed that the Maui fires are the deadliest the country has seen in the last 100 years. With around 120 dead – and counting – rescuers continue to uncover more bodies. An estimated 1,000 people are still trapped under the rubble. Most are in the historic resort town of Lahaina.

But, How Did This Tragedy Happen?

Authorities have confirmed that the fire started on the 8th of August and spread due to strong winds. Interestingly, the day before, emergency services had warned of a high risk of fire due to Hurricane Dora. The flames started in Kula but quickly spread inland, destroying everything in their path. In total, four official West Maui fires were recorded: Upcountry/Kula, Pulehu/Kihei, and Lahaina. The latter, as mentioned above, was the hardest hit, with 80% of its area burned.

The worst part? The lack of warning from the authorities about the dangers of the fire. Unfortunately, no one received evacuation orders or heard sirens warning of uncontrolled forest fires. The gross negligence affected much of Lahaina’s community of 13,000, who were unaware that the former capital of the Hawaiian Kingdom was about to become a burning paradise.

The Aftermath of the Maui Fires: Mass Deaths and Injuries

When a disaster of the scale of the Maui fire occurs, the consequences are usually devastating. The impact is extreme in every way: human lives, structural damage, and the environment.

Human lives. The number of deaths and injuries from burns and smoke inhalation is enormous. Fifteen days after the Maui fires began, there is still no record of the number of people injured. However, the death toll has reached 120 and is still rising.

In fact, a thousand bodies are still missing and more than 20% of the area remains to be searched. Although the services are making progress, it is feared that it will take several weeks to find all of those missing. The problem, according to authorities, is due to debris and molten metal in Lahaina.

Structural damage. Although it is too early to assess the value of the damage, it is estimated that the losses will exceed $6 billion. This is the result of the destruction of 3,088 homes on approximately 2,500 hectares.

The environment. The ecological impact of a wildfire of this magnitude is remarkable. Experts say that the environmental consequences of the Hawaiian fires will cause a major ecological disaster. The fires have devastated vegetation, left behind toxic chemicals that contaminate water, and charred wildlife. The main concern is marine ecology: corals are dying. In addition, the quality of the wind-driven air will be extremely toxic in the coming months.

It is the deadliest fire since 1918, when 453 people died in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Who is to Blame for a Fire, and How Does it Start?

National Park Service data and other research show that 85% to 90% of wildfires in the United States are caused by human activity. In general, fires are started by private individuals or public/private corporations. The most common culprits and causes include the following:

  • Owners of a building or dwelling that does not have fire exits or smoke detectors.
  • Electrical companies and contractors who provide negligent services.
  • Cities that fail to warn of possible wildfire hazards.
  • Businesses that do not follow fire and burn safety protocols.
  • Appliance or other equipment manufacturers who sell defective products.
  • Individuals who intentionally or deliberately vandalize a fire.
  • People or children with fireworks.
  • Anyone who fails to extinguish a fire or leaves a heat source near an easily ignited object.

Historically, the most deadly recent wildfires have been caused by utility companies. This is the case with PG&E, an electric utility that has been responsible for numerous fires on the West Coast. One of the most devastating was the Dixie Fire, which lasted four months and was blamed on poor maintenance of electrical wiring. Sadly, the Maui fire had a similar outcome to the California fires of recent years.

Although some of the fire victims were afraid to sue utility companies, government agencies public employees for damages, with the help of attorneys like those at Adamson Ahdoot, they received the compensation they deserved.

Different Negligence in the Maui Fires Can Lead to Multiple Liabilities in Upcoming Lawsuits

Different negligence in the Maui fires can lead to multiple liabilities in upcoming lawsuits

There are four clear liabilities where victims can seek justice for clear negligence that led to numerous human losses and damages in the Maui fires. And, interestingly, all the blame lies with the public agencies and their representatives. Again. Below, we list the potential responsibilities that victims have when it comes to filing claims for damages and injuries:

The siren warning system was not activated to sound the alarm

No one tried to activate any of the 80 sirens Maui has to warn of imminent danger to the island’s residents. Despite their gross negligence, officials tried to cover their own backs by claiming that the emergency warning system was set up to warn of tsunamis. However, the state’s Emergency Management Agency website states that sirens are used “for a variety of both natural and human-caused events; including wildfires.” The failure to use such an effective method of issuing evacuation orders in the face of a threat of such magnitude may have been the cause of many deaths.

No evacuation or escape plan in case of a forest fire

The island did not have a forest fire protocol. In 2014, a community project identified the need to develop evacuation plans in the event of a fire, but stated that such a plan “had not yet been determined.” Despite a suggestion to develop a protocol following a fire that burned 20 homes in 2018, local officials didn’t consider it.

Maui’s electric utility did not cut power in the face of high winds

Although still inconclusive, the latest investigations and evidence point to Hawaiian Electric as the responsible party for the Maui fires. The company is in charge of Maui Electric, which serves 95% of the island. Recently, it has been accused of failing to shut down power despite warnings of high winds. A video posted by the Maui Bird Conservation Center shows a tree falling on a power pole, which could have sparked huge flames.

In fact, a class action lawsuit was filed a week after the Maui fires began. It blamed the company for “failing to de-energize power lines during high winds and red flag conditions for Maui prior to the Lahaina Fire.”

Hawaii state agency delayed water diversion at the start of the fire

The press has obtained documents implicating another state agency. These show that Maui’s water utility delayed a shipment of water to fight the fire as the flames began to spread. The West Maui Land Company is under investigation after failing to approve a water supply request on the 8th, which was put on hold until the 10th. Another example of utility company negligence in an emergency situation.

Call Us if You Have Been a Victim of a Fire Caused by Negligence

Adamson Ahdoot is a top-rated personal injury attorney firm in California. Our experience and ability to devise sound legal strategies have allowed us to obtain highly successful awards for our victims. Even in fire cases, our attorneys have been able to secure large recoveries for victims.

Are you seeking compensation for damages, injuries, and trauma caused by a fire? Don’t hesitate to call us at (800) 310-1606. Our bilingual team is available 24/7 to help you explore your legal options.

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