CNN  — 

The head of Maui’s emergency management agency has resigned, citing health reasons, Maui County said Thursday – a day after he defended the silence of the island’s siren system last week during the deadliest US wildfire in more than 100 years.

No details were released about Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya’s health. His resignation was effective immediately, and his role will be filled “as quickly as possible,” Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen said.

The death toll from the wildfires that ignited August 8 has increased to at least 114 people – including children – mostly around Lahaina, an economic and cultural hub obliterated by the infernos.

The number of people killed is expected to rise as searchers – many grieving their own fire losses – keep digging through the charred remains of more than 2,000 burned homes and businesses. “Probably still over 1,000” residents remain unaccounted for, Hawaii Gov. Josh Green told CNN on Wednesday.

Now, scrutiny is mounting over the official wildfire preparations and response, including the role of the local electricity provider and the siren system.

As the deadly fires spread, no one tried to activate Maui’s 80-alarm, all-hazard outdoor siren system, a spokesperson for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said last week.

Herman Andaya, then Maui's emergency management agency chief, speaks at a news conference this month. He resigned Thursday.

Andaya was asked Wednesday whether he regretted not sounding the alarms, which are part of a larger statewide network.

“I do not,” he told reporters, saying he worried their alarms would have sent many residents inland “into the fire.”

Before Andaya’s resignation was announced, state Sen. Angus McKelvey – who represents Lahaina and lost his own home in the fires – blasted Andaya’s response as “insulting.”

“I’ve heard the line that ‘people would have panicked and ran up to the mountains because it’s a tsunami siren.’ … It’s insulting to think that people would be that clueless, that they wouldn’t know that sirens blasting was because of the fire,” McKelvey told CNN on Thursday.

“These are not tsunami sirens. They’re disaster sirens.”

‘Everything was on fire’: The hours that brought Lahaina to ruins

It’s still not clear why the siren system wasn’t used. Narratives about its silence have shifted, with Green telling CNN some sirens were broken.

The governor has asked the state attorney general to review the fire and officials’ response, including the alarms’ silence.

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Feds will help investigate as fires rage on

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Response Team will help local authorities determine the cause of the disaster, the agency said in a statement.

The team includes “one electrical engineer from the ATF Fire Research Laboratory, two Certified Fire Investigators (CFI) and a CFI candidate from the Honolulu Field Office, and one Arson and Explosives Group Supervisor from the Seattle Field Division,” the statement said.

The most destructive blaze on Maui, the 2,168-acre Lahaina fire, was 90% contained as of Thursday night, Maui County posted on Facebook.

Other wildfires are still burning on Maui island include the 1,081-acre Olinda fire, which was 85% contained as of Thursday night, and the 202-acre Kula fire, which was 80% contained, according to Maui County.

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It will be a “multi-year operation” to respond to the wildfires on Maui, the commander of the military’s task force said Friday – a process that’s only in its earliest stages.

The focus right now is to locate and identify human remains in the area affected by the fire, according to Brig. Gen. Stephen Logan, commander of Combined Joint Task Force 5-0, which is coordinating the Defense Department’s response.

“We want to be able to treat them in a dignified manner and give some closure to the families,” Logan told reporters on a call Friday afternoon.

Crews have searched roughly 45% of the 5-square-mile area affected, Maui County’s mayor told CNN on Thursday.

Combing the ashes of what used to be homes, businesses and historic landmarks has been arduous. And identifying those killed won’t be easy, as remains are largely unrecognizable and fingerprints rarely found, the governor said.

Go Nakamura/The New York Times/Redux
Sarah Salmonese sits where her apartment once stood in Lahaina, Hawaii, on Friday, August 11.
Jae C. Hong/AP
Ken Alba carries a bag of ice at a food and supply distribution center that was set up in the parking lot of a Lahaina shopping mall on Thursday, August 17.
Yuki Iwamura/AFP/Getty Images
Fences are built around destroyed neighborhoods in Lahaina on August 17.
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Destroyed homes are seen in Lahaina on Wednesday, August 16.
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The state flag of Hawaii flies over a sign in Lahaina that says "tourist keep out" on August 16. Vacationers are being asked to stay home as Maui recovers. Many hotels are housing evacuees.
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A woman lays down flowers and prays on a hillside overlooking the rubble of Lahaina on August 16.
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The Lahaina neighborhood of Wahikuli Terrace is seen on Tuesday, August 15.
Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Foster/US Army National Guard
Search-and-rescue workers look through damage in Lahaina on August 15.
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An FBI agent watches as two additional refrigerated storage containers arrive next to the Maui Police Forensic Facility where human remains were being stored in Wailuku, Hawaii, on Monday, August 14.
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A spoon lies in the rubble of a home destroyed by the wildfire in Kula, Hawaii, on August 14.
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Lauren Haley sprays water on hot spots in her Kula neighborhood on August 14.
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JP Mayoga, a chef at the Westin Maui Resort, is embraced by his wife, Makalea Ahhee, at the hotel near Lahaina on Sunday, August 13. About 200 employees were living at the hotel with their families.
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Volunteers in Kihei, Hawaii, load water onto a boat to be transported to West Maui on August 13.
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People pray during a church service in Wailuku on August 13. The Maui Coffee Attic opened up space for the service after a wildfire destroyed Lahaina's Grace Baptist Church.
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People wait in line at a checkpoint to gain access to Lahaina on Saturday, August 12.
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Volunteers offload supplies that would be delivered to a distribution center for evacuees in Napili-Honokowai, Hawaii, on August 12.
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Honolulu Fire Department responders work in Lahaina on August 11.
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This aerial photo shows the shells of burned houses, vehicles and buildings in Lahaina on August 11.
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Zoltan Balogh clears away trees that were burned by the wildfire in Kula.
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Cars are backed up on the Honoapiilani Highway as residents are allowed back into wildfire-affected areas on August 11.
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Volunteers in Maalaea, Hawaii, watch truckloads of donated food and supplies depart for Lahaina on August 10.
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Wildfire wreckage is seen in Lahaina on August 10.
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Volunteers stack canned goods at the War Memorial Stadium in Kahului.
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Burned cars sit in Lahaina on August 10.
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Vixay Phonxaylinkham holds his 4-year-old child Lana while they wait for their flight at the Kahului Airport on August 10. Phonoxaylinkham, his wife and their five children were heading back to California. They had been caught in the wildfires, but they survived by spending four hours in the ocean.
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People arrive on school buses to evacuate the Maui airport on August 10.
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Building wreckage is seen in Lahaina on August 10.
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Myrna Ah Hee reacts as she waits in front of an evacuation center in Wailuku on August 10. The Ah Hees were looking for her husband's brother. Their home in Lahaina was spared, but the homes of many of their relatives were destroyed by wildfires.
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Puong Sui, center, talks to her daughter at the evacuation center in Kahului on August 10. Sui lost her house and belongings in Lahaina and was planning to fly to Las Vegas to reunite with her family.
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A wildfire burns in Kihei on August 9.
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This satellite image shows an overview of wildfires in Lahaina on August 9.
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People gather at the Kahului Airport while waiting for flights on August 9.
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Helicopters with the Hawaii Army National Guard perform water bucket drops to assist in the firefighting efforts on August 9.
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Residents carry their belongings after wildfires swept through Lahaina on August 9.
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Passengers try to sleep on the floor of the Kahului Airport while waiting for flights on August 9.
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The hall of the historic Waiola Church and the nearby Lahaina Hongwanji Mission are engulfed in flames in Lahaina on August 8.

Authorities have asked relatives of the missing to provide DNA samples so a genetics team can help identify remains.

At least 40 canines from 15 states have joined in the search, said Jeff Hickman of the Hawaii Department of Defense.

The next phase will be to make sure the area affected by the fire has been deemed safe. The fire tore through both residential and industrial areas, leaving the risk for different types of hazards across the sites.

“Each one may have some type of propane tank, there could be some type of live electricity rolling through, some other utilities, there could be paints, thinners, hazardous materials that were used in the construction of the building that is now been consumed by fire,” Logan said.

Only after areas are deemed safe can emergency responders allow locals to return to their homes and businesses to see what can be salvaged.

Power company faces scrutiny

While the cause of the fires hasn’t been determined, Hawaiian Electric – the major power company on Maui – is under scrutiny for not shutting down power lines when high winds created dangerous fire conditions.

And a company that runs a sensor network on Maui detected major utility grid faults hours before the fires started, it said.

Hawaiian Electric said publicly in 2019 it would conduct drone surveys to identify areas vulnerable to wildfires and determine how to help keep residents and infrastructure safe. But between 2019 and 2022, Hawaiian Electric invested less than $245,000 on wildfire-specific projects, according to The Wall Street Journal, citing regulatory filings.

Hawaiian Electric also didn’t seek state approval to raise rates to pay for safety improvements until 2022, and the rate hike has yet to be approved, the Journal reported.

The company has spent roughly $84 million since 2018 on maintenance and vegetation management in Maui County, including trimming and cutting down trees and upgrading equipment, it told CNN in a statement.

“There are many elements of wildfire mitigation that don’t get counted specifically as mitigation activities, including vegetation management, grid hardening and pole replacement and routine line and equipment inspections,” the company said.

A sensor network run by Whisker Labs detected an “increasingly stressed utility grid” on Maui beginning late August 7 and into the next morning, the company’s CEO Bob Marshall told CNN on Wednesday.

“Through the overnight hours, when all the fires ignited, we measured 122 individual faults on the utility grid,” Marshall said. A fault – a short circuit or partial short circuit – could cause electric current to leave its intended path, which could lead to a fire, Marshall said.

Video taken at the Maui Bird Conservation Center in Makawao appears to show a power pole faulting just before 11 p.m. on August 7. Soon after, what appears to be flames are seen in the video, first reported by The Washington Post.

The sensor system provided “verification that, indeed, this was very likely caused by a fault on the utility grid,” Marshall said.

The Makawao fire was hours before and miles away from the fire that decimated the historic portions of Lahaina in Western Maui. But sensors detected faults on the grid before that fire, too, Marshall said.

A class-action lawsuit filed over the weekend alleges the wildfires were caused by Hawaiian Electric’s energized power lines that were knocked down by strong winds.

The company and its subsidiaries “chose not to deenergize their power lines after they knew some poles and lines had fallen and were in contact with the vegetation or the ground,” the suit alleges.

Precautionary shutoffs have to be arranged with first responders, Hawaiian Electric Vice President Jim Kelly told CNN on Sunday in an email, adding the company doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

“Electricity powers the pumps that provide the water needed for firefighting,” Kelly said.

Hawaiian Electric is also eager to find answers, a company spokesperson said.

“We know there is speculation about what started the fires,” spokesperson Darren Pai told The Washington Post. “And we, along with others, are working hard to figure out what happened.”

Firefighters battled blazes as their own homes burned

When ferocious winds hurled flames across and quickly overwhelmed crews on August 8, some firefighters knew their own homes could burn.

“The people that were trying to put out these fires lived in those homes – 25 of our firefighters lost their homes,” Bissen said Wednesday.

Now, some search crew members are working despite immense personal grief.

“Realize that the responders that are going out there are recovering their loved ones and members of their families,” Pelletier said.

Maui firefighter Aina Kohler was on the front lines that day and stuck to her mission to save lives – even as her house burned to the ground, she told CNN affiliate KITV. By the time flames reached her home, she said, firefighters had run out of water.

“That was honestly the most disheartening thing of my life. I felt the supply, and I’m like: It’s limp. Just leaving a house to burn because we don’t have enough water is like something I’ve never experienced before,” she said.

Two of Kohler’s fellow firefighters also lost their homes while battling the fires, she said.

“They watched their homes burn as they fought the fire for other homes in their neighborhood,” Kohler said. “That hit really hard.”

CNN’s Oren Liebermann, LJ Spaet, Chris Boyette, Jamiel Lynch, Dakin Andone, Jason Hanna, Sara Smart, Giri Viswanathan, Katherine Dillinger, Taylor Romine, Gloria Pazmino, Joey Hurst and Eva Rothenberg contributed to this report.