Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc. soared after the utility it owns said its power lines had been de-energized hours before a wildfire that killed at least 115 people in Maui this month.
While a fire on the morning of Aug. 8 was apparently caused by power lines falling in high winds, the second, deadly blaze that swept through Lahaina in the afternoon started more than six hours after Hawaiian Electric Co.’s power lines in the area had been turned off, the utility said Sunday night in a statement.
On Wall Street today, the stock of the parent company of Hawaiian Electric Co. closed up 45%, or $4.31 a share, to $13.97. The stock was up as much as 50% following a brief halt after reaching its upper trading limits.
The stock is still down about 63% since closing at $37.36 on Aug. 7, the day before the Lahaina tragedy. However that represents a rebound after falling over 70% in the aftermath of the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century.
About a dozen lawsuits have been filed against the company, including by Maui County and investors. The lawsuits blame Hawaiian Electric for the Aug. 8 wildfires, saying that the utility didn’t cut power and take safety measures to contain the fire.
Hawaiian Electric said Sunday that it’s “surprised and disappointed” it’s being sued by Maui County and that it has yet to be shown that the utility bears responsibility for the deadly blaze.
The utility called Maui County’s complaint “factually and legally irresponsible.”
“Unfortunately, the county’s lawsuit may leave us no choice in the legal system but to show its responsibility for what happened that day,” Hawaiian Electric Co. CEO Shelee Kimura said in the statement.