House Oversight and Accountability Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) on Tuesday announced that his committee will be investigating the federal government’s response to the wildfires in Maui that were the deadliest in the nation’s history in over a century.
“The response by federal, state, and local officials to the catastrophic wildfire in Maui raises serious questions and Americans, especially those impacted by this tragedy, deserve answers,” said Comer in a statement obtained by Breitbart News.
“As recovery efforts continue, the House Oversight Committee has a responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are being used efficiently and effectively. To minimize the risk of waste, fraud, and abuse of taxpayer dollars, the Oversight Committee will examine the federal government’s response in Maui and work with other committees of jurisdiction to ensure accountability,” he said.
The probe came after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) announced he was heading to Hawaii this week to survey the damage, and planned to launch an investigation into what happened in the days before the fires as well as the response.
The response to the fires — managed by Democrat local and state officials and overseen by the Biden administration — has fallen under increasing scrutiny by Maui residents and the broader public.
So far, there are a number of questions still unanswered as to what went wrong and how such devastation could have been prevented.
Top among those questions are: what steps were taken by authorities and utility companies — if any — in response to National Weather Service warnings days in advance about the high risk of fire on Maui; what actions were taken to alert Lahaina residents of the oncoming fires and evacuate them; and why officials declared an initial fire in Lahaina to be “100% contained” and whether that same fire flared up and destroyed the town?
Maui residents also want to know whether police barricades may have led to people being trapped in their cars as the fires advanced, why the water system collapsed, and why the military was not deployed to help with recovery sooner.
President Joe Biden has also come under criticism by some residents and the broader public for not sending help sooner, but the White House has argued that he issued a disaster declaration immediately after the fires that unlocked federal resources.
Biden was also criticized by residents and the broader public for saying he had “no comment” when asked by a reporter about the rising death toll in Lahaina, six days after the fire, but the White House claims he did not hear the question.
However, Democrat Sen. Brian Schatz said he welcomes the oversight.
“It’s to be expected that the Republican Speaker of the House would be critical of the Democratic president’s response to a disaster so I’m not overly alarmed at that,” Schatz said, according to the Civil Beat. “I would be more alarmed if he were paying no attention to Maui. That would be a concern.”
“We all need to take a deep breath and recognize that we now have the speaker of the House and some leading House Republicans articulating that the federal government should do more for Maui,” he added. “And I can agree with that.”
McCarthy told reporters last week that he was “very concerned” about the administration’s response. “How could you lose that many Americans in today’s age? I’m going to be working with committees to investigate what went on so this never happens again.”