Hawaii Gov. Josh Green says the sirens are typically used to warn of a tsunami, which results in people fleeing to higher ground.
“I’m not saying we shouldn’t have done it, but it was just as likely people would have come out of their houses and gone up the mountain right into the fire,” Green said Thursday on “CUOMO.” “I didn’t want anyone to come away with the idea that any of us are OK with that (decision), it’s just not typically what those sirens are used for.”
The head of the Maui Emergency Management Agency, who made the decision not to sound the disaster sirens, resigned Thursday, citing health reasons.
Maui Mayor Richard Bissen accepted the resignation of Herman Andaya, the County of Maui announced on Facebook.
“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.
Andaya defended not sounding sirens as flames raged, saying he was afraid they would have prompted people to flee inland, where fires were burning.
Both the state and federal government have been criticized for the slow response on the ground, particularly getting resources to those in need. Officials have cited the remoteness of both Hawaii and the impacted neighborhood as reason for logistics problems.
“We’re the most isolated land mass in the world,” Green said.
However, he complimented the work of federal responders, who were on the ground within days after the fire.
“We have incredible resources,” he said.
Search and rescue crews have cleared 45% of the area, Green said, as the death toll rose to 111 Wednesday. More than 40 cadaver dogs are searching through the rubble for bodies.
The cause of the wildfires, the deadliest in the U.S. in more than a century, is under investigation.
The local power utility faced criticism for leaving power on as strong winds from a passing hurricane buffeted a parched area last week, and one video shows a cable dangling in a charred patch of grass, surrounded by flames, in the early moments of the wildfire.
Already, Green said state officials are looking at future infrastructure improvements, including putting power lines underground.
“We owe it to Hawaii and the world to begin to build again, and to do things much better,” Green said. “I think you’re looking at a pivotal point in the history of mankind, when you look at what can happen in a developed country with storms like this and what kind of infrastructure and preparations you need.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.