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Warning Sirens Never Sounded on Maui, State Official Says

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Warning Sirens Never Sounded on Maui, State Official Says

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None of the 80 warning sirens placed around Maui were activated by the island or the state’s emergency management agencies in response to the devastating Lahaina fire, a spokesman confirmed on Saturday.

Hawaii boasts what it describes as the largest system of outdoor public safety warning sirens in the world, alarms that blare in cases of danger. Residents who survived the fire have wondered aloud why no one activated the sirens, which emit noises at a higher decibel level than a loud rock concert and can be heard from more than half a mile away.

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency’s spokesman, Adam Weintraub, confirmed on Saturday that the sirens were not activated, and he stressed that the sirens alone would not have been a sign to evacuate, but for residents to seek more information.

Mr. Weintraub said other alert systems were activated — including alerts that were sent to cellphones and through radio and television stations — but the power was out for much of the day in Lahaina on Tuesday, and many residents said they never got any warnings.

Mr. Weintraub said the agency would be cooperating with the state attorney general’s review of the response to the fires.

Maui’s fire chief, Bradford Ventura, said earlier this week that once the Lahaina fire flared up on Tuesday afternoon, fueled by powerful winds, the agency did not have enough time to alert emergency management officials to send out evacuation orders.

Robin Ritchie, who has lived in the Lahaina area for about 40 years, said that two of her friends were saved from the encroaching fire only because they heard smoke detectors going off in their homes.

“The emergency sirens are tested once a month, but they weren’t sounded for some unknown reason to announce these fires,” Ms. Ritchie said. “That makes me feel very angry because the lack of warning has definitely caused death.”

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