House Speaker Kevin McCarthy visits fire-ravaged Lahaina, pledges ‘we’ll be here for you’
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - House Speaker Kevin McCarthy toured Lahaina on Saturday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers and pledged continued congressional support to rebuild.
“We are going to be there for you,” McCarthy said, in a news conference following the tour.
“We want to know what went wrong and that it never happens again. We watched American lives get lost. I don’t think anyone can go there and not be moved. This is taking out a total community.”
McCarthy also met with survivors and first responders in West Maui, and reassured the state that federal funding would continue to flow toward recovery efforts. And in a nod to residents’ concerns, he stressed the importance of moving forward in a culturally-sensitive way.
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During a lengthy news conference, McCarthy also noted his personal connection to Hawaii, saying he’s visited Lahaina “many times” before and was struck by the scale of the devastation.
“The responsibility as policymakers is to honor those who lost their lives and understand the heritage. Respect it, but rebuild it,” McCarthy said, adding it’s critical to “better prepare” for the threat of wildfires in the future. Among the potential mitigation measures he mentioned: Burying power lines, expanding the firefighting force and resources, and addressing dry brush “fuel.”
McCarthy is the latest high-profile politician to visit the disaster zone.
President Biden and the first lady also visited Lahaina, where a ferocious blaze left at least 115 people dead and some 2,200 structures destroyed.
McCarthy, a Republican, was accompanied on the bipartisan delegation by U.S. Rep. Jill Tokuda, who represents Maui. U.S. Rep. Ed Case was not able to attend because he contracted COVID-19.
Tokuda thanked McCarthy for the visit and noted how important it was to see the disaster area in person. “Seeing the lack of resources and what we need to make sure we prepare,” she said.
McCarthy said it’s vital that lessons be learned in the wake of the fire.
“It’s clear we need answers into how this tragic fire occurred and what could have been done to prevent it from happening,” he said.
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