Hawaiian Electric Drops as Lawyers Probe Cause of Deadly Maui Wildfires

Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. plunged on concern that its power lines may be linked to the deadly Maui wildfires.

(Bloomberg) — Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. plunged on concern that its power lines may be linked to the deadly Maui wildfires. 

Shares fell 40% Monday morning to $19.58. Hawaiian Electric, which operates the utility that serves Maui, has come under criticism for not turning off power despite weather forecasters’ warnings that dry, gusty winds could create critical fire conditions. Plaintiffs attorneys are homing in on the utility’s equipment as a possible source of ignition and plan to file lawsuits this week. 

Officials say they haven’t determined what triggered the blazes and Hawaiian Electric said it doesn’t have information on the possible cause. Hawaii Attorney General Anne Lopez said Friday that she was opening an investigation into how authorities responded to the wildfires, which killed more than 90 people. 

Read more: In Search for Cause of Hawaii Fires, Lawyers Probe Power Lines

The risk of power lines sparking wildfires has grown across parts of the US as climate change creates hotter and drier conditions. California’s largest utility, PG&E Corp., was driven into bankruptcy in 2019 after its broken equipment sparked some of the worst wildfires in state history. Since then, power companies in California, Oregon and Nevada have decided to preemptively shut off power when high, dry winds could spark catastrophic fires.

Attorneys with Watts Guerra, Singleton Schreiber, and Frantz Law Group said they have been collecting evidence, interviewing eyewitnesses and reviewing reports that indicate that damaged power infrastructure owned by Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. created the spark for the flames. 

“All evidence — videos, witness accounts, burn progression, and utility equipment remaining — points to Hawaiian Electric’s equipment being the ignition source of the fire that devastated Lahaina,” said Mikal Watts, a Puerto Rico-based plaintiffs lawyer at Watts Guerra who has won millions of dollars in settlements in other wildfire cases, including against California utility giant PG&E Corp. 

Plaintiff lawyers often dispatch representatives of their offices to sign up clients in the wake of wildfire disasters.

(Updates shares in second paragraph)

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