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Maui County Awarding Contract to Review Fire Response

“The next step will be to integrate the information from ATF’s investigation into our Cause and Origin report, and share ATF’s investigative findings as an appendix,” the Maui Department of Fire and Public Safety chief said.

Homes and businesses lay in ruins after last week’s devastating wildfire swept through Lahaina. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
Robert Gauthier/TNS
(TNS) - Maui awarded a contract Tuesday to an undisclosed company to of the Maui Emergency Management Agency during the fatal Aug. 8 wildfires.

The county received seven bids to perform the after-action report by the May 17 deadline and awarded the contract Tuesday, according to Laksmi Abraham, director of communications and government affairs for Maui Mayor Richard Bissen.

County officials declined to name the company or disclose how much the contract is worth because the Maui Department of the Corporation Counsel is still reviewing the winning bid.

Meantime, what caused the Aug. 8 wildfires and where they started are closer to being made public.

“The ATF National Response Team and Seattle Field Division personnel are in Maui this week presenting and briefing our report,” Jason R. Chudy, public information officer for the Seattle Field Division of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The Maui Department of Fire and Public Safety is doing the final origin-and-cause report.

Bradford Ventura, Maui Department of Fire and Public Safety chief, told the Star-Advertiser that the department has been meeting with ATF this week to receive briefings on its investigation and report.

“The next step will be to integrate the information from ATF’s investigation into our Cause and Origin report, and share ATF’s investigative findings as an appendix,” said Ventura. “While our department is tasked with investigating every fire, we utilize ATF to assist with more complex, scientific fire analysis, as needed. We recognize the urgency of releasing this information publicly and will be working to prioritize the completion of a transparent and comprehensive report as soon as we are able.”

For its MEMA after-action report, county attorneys are performing an expedited review of the contract that was awarded Tuesday, and the work will begin once the contract is finalized. There is no timetable for that review.

Funds to pay the contractor are included for professional services in MEMA’s budget. The contractor has six months to review MEMA’s performance during the fatal fires that killed 102 and left thousands homeless.

The Maui Police Department and also conducted after-action reports related to Aug. 8 and published the findings.

On May 8 the county issued a request for proposals to conduct an after-action report “assessing the coordination ” of MEMA’s response. The MEMA after-action report will provide context and detailed information to explain what happened in the Emergency Operations Center on Aug. 8 and in the aftermath, according to the RFP.

MEMA said it wants to evaluate the agency’s “emergency management practices, protocols, coordination mechanisms, and decision-making processes.” County officials want to analyze MEMA’s “communication strategies, resource allocation, incident documentation, and post -incident analysis, ” according to the RFP.

The winning bidder “understands that there may be significant public and media interest in the findings of the report, ” the RFP said. “If desired by the county, contractor will develop both a public version and a ‘For Official Use Only’ version of the AAR.”

The county has not decided whether to produce a public version of the report and a separate document for internal use that will not be made public.

The last time MEMA did an AAR was following the August 2018 wildfires fueled by Hurricane Lane, which destroyed homes, vehicles and forced evacuations in Lahaina.

The 2018 draft AAR was created by MEMA for official use only. It was released to the public in October following Uniform Public Information Act requests from multiple news organizations.

County officials have previously declined to discuss the 2018 draft AAR or any other aspect of the county’s response to the Hurricane Lane -fueled fires in Lahaina.


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