Maui’s emergency management director was at Oahu conference as wildfires raged

It's a simple question -- both state and county officials -- have been dodging for the past week. Where was Herman Andaya?
Published: Aug. 16, 2023 at 5:40 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 16, 2023 at 5:43 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The whereabouts of Maui County’s Emergency Management administrator the night the Lahaina wildfire broke out has been unclear — until now.

After a week of being noticeably absent from all news conferences Maui County Emergency Management Agency Director Herman Andaya addressed media for the first time Wednesday.

During a question-and-answer period, he acknowledged he was not on Maui last Tuesday.

“I was in Oahu attending a conference,” he said.

According to documents, Andaya was in Waikiki at the Alohilani Resort attending what was scheduled to be a three-day FEMA disaster preparedness seminar called the Pacific Partnership Meeting. A receipt from the hotel shows Andaya checked in last Monday, a day before the fire started. That same receipt lists a departure date of Aug. 9, the day after the Lahaina blaze.

Special Section: Maui Wildfires

What remains unclear is exactly what time Andaya left Oahu and returned to Maui — along with details about how much the administrator knew during the early stages of disaster response.

Because each media organization is limited to one question at news conferences, we were unable to get those answers on Wednesday.

According to the Pacific Partnership Agenda, the FEMA conference began Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. —after fires in Kula and Lahaina sparked.

Officials from other counties confirmed seminars went on as scheduled that day.

According to Tuesday’s agenda, the day wrapped up with a networking reception at the hotel’s Longboard Club from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

That’s the same time that Lahaina was being engulfed in flames.

HNN Investigates is still trying to confirm if Andaya attended the conference alone or if other emergency officials from his office were with him.

HNN is also trying to track down who was there from the state’s emergency management office.

On Monday evening, HNN Investigates submitted a public information request to FEMA asking for a complete list of attendees. We also sent that same request to the Maui County and the state emergency management office. We have yet to get a response from anyone.