The probe, which will examine state and local government’s response, is expected to take more than a year to complete .

Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez announced Thursday that her office has selected the nonprofit Fire Safety Research Institute to conduct an independent investigation into state and local government’s response to the Aug. 8 wildfires on Maui that decimated Lahaina and left at least 115 people dead.

According to a press release, the institute will analyze how government agencies, including Maui County, responded to the blaze in the first 24 to 72 hours as well as analyze the lead up to the fires which caused an estimated $5.5 billion in damage.

A number of concerns have already been raised about the government’s response in the immediate aftermath of the fires, including questions about why Maui County decided not to activate its emergency warning sirens to aid in evacuations.

Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez has selected a nonprofit research firm to investigate the Maui wildfires. (David Croxford/Civil Beat/2023)

“I am committed to an independent, unbiased, and transparent investigation into government actions during the fires,” Lopez said in a written statement. “I hear the frustration and understand that many have had their belief in government shaken by this unprecedented tragedy. It is crucial to preserve faith in government action by using science and sound investigative techniques to determine the facts.”

The Fire Safety Research Institute is a subsidiary of UL Research Institutes, which bills itself as a global safety science organization.

Lopez said the institute will perform a three phased investigation that she expects to be completed in late 2024.

The phases include a fact-finding mission that will develop a comprehensive timeline showing how the fire unfolded, an analysis of the various fire protection systems that were in place during the disaster and a forward-looking report that will try to answer the question: “How do we prevent this from happening again?”

Lopez said she intends to share information with the public about the institute’s findings at the end of each phase, the first of which is expected to take approximately three months.

The press release did not address whether the results of the investigation will address possible civil or criminal penalties, but in a statement to Civil Beat Lopez said she will follow the facts where they lead.

“If during the course of the investigation criminal or civilly unlawful acts are discovered, they will be dealt with accordingly,” Lopez said.

Help power our public service journalism

As a local newsroom, Civil Beat has a unique public service role in times of crisis.

That’s why we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content, so we can get vital information out to everyone, from all communities.

We are deploying a significant amount of our resources to covering the Maui fires, and your support ensures that we can pivot when these types of emergencies arise.

Make a gift to Civil Beat today and help power our nonprofit newsroom.

About the Author