Utility workers clear downed trees and power lines to restore electricity in the aftermath of a wildfire in Lahaina, western Maui, Hawaii on August 11, 2023.  Credit: Patrick T. Fallon / Getty

In the wake of the devastating Lahaina wildfire in Maui that left at least 111 people dead, Hawaiian Electric Company is facing a lawsuit claiming that the company “chose not to deenergize their power lines” before the natural disaster despite power lines being known to cause and exacerbate wildfires. 

While the exact cause of the wildfire remains unknown, Hawaiian Electric is not the first electric company to find itself facing potential liability in the aftermath of climate-related disasters. As electric companies across the U.S. begin to take steps to reduce the risks of utility-fueled fires, experts tell TIME that modernizing the electric grid and planning for extreme weather events—including having power turn-off plans and preemptively updating utility equipment—needs to be a priority in an increasingly changing climate

“We’re not planning our infrastructure for the changes that we’re already seeing in the climate and expect to see […]

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