Making his first appearance since the wildfires on Wednesday, Aug. 16 at a news conference, Andaya defended his decision and his qualifications as MEMA administrator. This is despite the wildfires already killing at least 114 people and over a thousand more still missing.
Andaya has served as MEMA administrator since 2017. He pointed out in the press conference that he was not just appointed to the role, but he was vetted, took a civil service exam and was interviewed multiple times by seasoned emergency managers.
Moreover, Andaya pointed out that, before serving as MEMA administrator, he was the deputy director of the Maui County Department of Housing and Human Concerns. Before that, he served as chief of staff for former Maui County Mayor Alan Arakawa for 11 years, during which time he often reported to "emergency operations centers" and participated in numerous trainings. (Related: Ugly truth about Maui fires now emerging: Government deprived Lahaina of water and emergency resources, resulting in TOTAL LOSS.)
In defending his decision to not sound the outdoor all-hazard siren system as Lahaina burned, he claimed the sirens are only typically used for tsunami alerts. He claimed that this could have sent people to go "mauka," or toward the mountains or further inland.
"The sirens … are used primarily for tsunamis and that's the reason why almost all of them are found on the coastline," said Andaya. "The public is trained to seek higher ground in the event that the siren is sounded. Having sounded the siren that night, we're afraid that people would have gone 'mauka' and if that was the case, then they would've gone into the fire."
Andaya further suggested that operating the warning sirens wouldn't have made any difference, especially for the people trapped by the fires on the Lahaina mountainsides.
"As I've said, most of our sirens are on the coastline. So, if there is a fire occurring inland, the sirens will be of no use," he said. "You have to also remember that that day in Lahaina, it's an outdoor siren, so a lot of people who are indoors, with their air conditioning on, whatever the case may be, they're not going to hear the siren."
A day after Andaya's press conference, Maui Mayor Richard Bissen formally accepted Andaya's resignation, effective immediately. Andaya claimed his decision to leave his post was influenced by unspecified health reasons and provided no further details.
"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 in a statement after accepting Andaya's resignation.
The Hawaii Department of the Attorney General is currently conducting a review of the decision-making processes that went into the response to the Lahaina fire. Gov. Josh Green clarified that this evaluation is "not a criminal investigation in any way."
"We're performing a comprehensive review to find out what the safest and most effective science-based way it is to protect people," Green said. "There are a lot of different geographies across our country. Some use sirens. Some don't."
Visit Disaster.news for more stories about the wildfire in Hawaii.
Watch the following video featuring Andaya defending his decision to not sound the sirens during the fires.
This video is from the Daily Videos channel on Brighteon.com.