Maui’s mayor seeks to defend — and explain — his actions on the day of the Lahaina wildfire
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Maui Mayor Richard Bissen sought to defend and explain his actions on the night of Aug. 8 — as ferocious flames tore through Lahaina town.
In an interview with HNN’s “Spotlight Now,” he got emotional when he recalled the terrible day.
He said the day started with a text “telling me that a house was on fire in Kula.”
“The reason I was getting a call because they were starting to evacuate areas of Kula and they wanted permission to open a shelter,” he said.
According to Maui County, the mayor was in and out of the Emergency Operations Center throughout the day. “The focus the whole day was what was happening at Kula,” he added.
The mayor said he was alerted to a separate fire in Lahaina that morning, but was told it had been contained. He says it wasn’t until late afternoon he realized the situation in Lahaina was much worse.
For me, that moment would have been when the fire units did not call back in,” said Bissen.
“As far as what time it was, I’m not sure.”
“The battalion chief (at the EOC) had gotten up and left the table he was at and went to another room so I followed him and that’s when he told me the truck had not reported back,” he said.
Bissen got emotional as he explained how he tried to send help from Wailuku.
“We sent two of our folks from the EOC, got into their trucks. They went to Longs. They went Safeway. They bought every case of water that was there and drove it up so. They got stopped along the way because the fire jumped the road so we had to turn them around,” he said.
The mayor says he went to asleep around 3:30 a.m. and set an alarm for two hours later.
It was on the morning of Aug. 9 that he was alerted there were fatalities in the fire.
The death toll from the deadliest wildfire disaster in U.S. history now stands at 98.
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