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Maui officials slow to hand over documents in deadly fire investigation, AG says

ABC News

Seven months after deadly wildfires ripped through Maui, state investigators are finalizing a comprehensive investigative report that is now set to be released on April 17, 2024, after a two-month delay.

While several local agencies are reviewing the cause of the fires and the response, the Fire Safety Research Institute was commissioned by Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez to conduct an independent investigation.

Phase One of the investigation is set to analyze how the fire incident unfolded, based on science, during the first 24 to 72 hours of the fire and its aftermath and includes a comprehensive timeline of events. The Fire Safety Research Institute (FSRI) is considered a premier fire safety science organization and was selected to provide its scientific analysis of the fire event and recommendations for the future.

However, the Attorney General’s office now confirms the FSRI research team encountered unexpected delays when gathering the critical facts for review, which directly impacted the release of the Phase One report.

In Nov. 2023, the Attorney General’s office served three subpoenas on the Maui Emergency Management Agency, the County of Maui Department of Public Works and the County of Maui Department of Water Supply, asking for documents relevant to the investigation. ABC News has confirmed that the FSRI team was seeking documents and data, including photos, video and audio recordings, and interviews with key Maui County personnel who worked during those first three days.

The County of Maui stated that subpoenas would be required for all further information, including documents and interviews with county personnel. As a result, the department needed to serve County of Maui agencies and officials eight additional subpoenas for documents and 53 additional subpoenas for interviews to date.

“Being able to review all of the data, which is extensive, has a tremendous impact on the comprehensive analysis of the fire incident and our recommendations to make Hawaiʻi a safer place to live, work and play,” said Steve Kerber, Ph.D., PE, vice president and executive director of FSRI.

“We understand the people of Hawaiʻi need to know what happened. We all want fast answers, but it is critical that this investigation be thorough and accurate. An analysis of this magnitude cannot be rushed, and we must allow for the time needed to make sure this investigation, based on science, is done correctly. I am confident that the Phase One report will provide some answers to the questions surrounding the tragic wildfire incident,” said Attorney General Lopez.

The Phase One report will contain a detailed timeline of what occurred, while the analysis will be included in Phase Two and released at a later date.

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