Maui to hire expert to evaluate county's response to deadly wildfire

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) — Nine months after the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century struck Maui, Mayor Richard Bissen says the county will hire an outside expert to assess how its emergency management agency performed during the disaster.

The Aug. 8 wildfire killed 101 people and destroyed much of the historic town of Lahaina.

Maui’s police and fire departments have already conducted after-action reports. Bissen said in a statement Wednesday that the county is inviting proposals from “qualified experts” to evaluate the performance of the emergency management agency to better prepare for future responses.

The agency isn't able to perform its own “after-action report” because of staffing shortages, the county said in response to an AP email Thursday seeking details on the request.

The fire department's report was put together by the Western Fire Chiefs Association, the county noted, while the police evaluation was conducted internally.

Many of the recommendations in the police preliminary after-action report released in February call for better equipment and updates to technology — from getting officers earpieces they can use when high winds make it hard to hear their radios to equipping patrol cars with breaching kits to remove downed trees or utility poles from roadways.

The fire department report released last month identifies challenges firefighters faced, including poorly stocked fire engines, a lack of mutual aid agreements between Hawaii counties and limited equipment.