In the aftermath of a destructive and deadly wildfire on the Hawaiian island of Maui, there was substantial speculation and even a few wild conspiracies about what caused the disaster. Throughout it all, however, experts were conducting a thorough investigation — and the first glimpses of that probe are now surfacing.
A tragic coincidence
As the first locals are being allowed limited access to their fire-damaged property, investigators say they have some compelling evidence that about the origins of the fire that demolished the picturesque town of Lahaina.
The blaze, which as of the latest reports claimed at least 97 lives and left thousands of structures damaged or destroyed, was temporarily thought to be extinguished after it began to spread last month. A short time later, however, the inferno was reignited and began spreading far and wide.
A preliminary report determined that an area of overgrown brush beneath some power lines could have been the cause.
What went wrong
The area had already been deemed a fire risk due to its growth and proximity to electrical wires, but investigators say it had gone for several years without being properly trimmed.
One local said he had lived in the area for two decades and never saw anyone mow the gulley, adding: “It was not manicured at all.”
Gemsley Balagso went on to describe what he experienced on the afternoon of Aug. 8 as a major storm passed by Hawaii.
“The winds were blowing 90 mph downhill,” he said. “From the time of reignition or rekindling to the time it passed my house, it was less than a minute.”
Hawaiian Electric already issued a statement blaming the initial fire on a downed line but insisted that all power had been shut off for hours by the time the blaze kicked up again.