The head of Maui’s Emergency Management Agency resigned on Thursday night, citing ‘health reasons’.
It comes a day after Chief Herman Andaya faced fierce backlash by saying he did not regret not activating warning sirens as the wildfire swept across the island.
Andaya said he opted to send out alerts via mobile devices, radio waves, television and the county’s opt-in resident alert system – but not via siren.
Despite the claim the warning sirens could have saved hundreds of people, Andaya argued the systems are generally used for tsunami warnings and Hawaiians are trained to seek higher ground when they go off, which would have led them toward the blazing inferno.
It has since emerged that the official has a history of downplaying the importance of the island’s siren systems.
Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said in a statement on Thursday that he had accepted Andaya’s resignation.
‘Given the gravity of the crisis we are facing, my team and I will be placing someone in this key position as quickly as possible and I look forward to making that announcement soon,’ Bissen said.
Andaya defended his experience and qualification for office during the mid-week press conference held by Governor Josh Green.
‘Had we sounded the siren that night, we’re afraid that people would have gotten mauka [toward the mountains] and if that was the case, then they would have gone into the fire,’ he said.
‘I should also note that there are no sirens mauka, or on the mountainside, where the fire was spreading down. So even if we sounded the siren, we would not have saved those people out there on the mountainside.’