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Federal investigators dispatched to Maui to find origin, cause of deadly wildfire

View of the damaged buildings and structures of Lahaina Town, which were destroyed in the Maui wildfires in Lahaina, Maui, on Wednesday. The death toll climbed to 111 as crews continue to fight last week's wind-fueled fires and investigators work to determine a cause. Photo by Dominick Del Vecchio/FEMA/UPI
View of the damaged buildings and structures of Lahaina Town, which were destroyed in the Maui wildfires in Lahaina, Maui, on Wednesday. The death toll climbed to 111 as crews continue to fight last week's wind-fueled fires and investigators work to determine a cause. Photo by Dominick Del Vecchio/FEMA/UPI

Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Federal investigators have been dispatched to Maui to find the cause of an ongoing wildfire that has devastated the historic town of Lahaina.

The five-member National Response Team of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were expected to arrive in Maui on Thursday, the federal agency said.

The dispatched team consists of an electrical engineer from the ATF Fire Research Laboratory, two Certified Fire Investigators, a CFI candidate and an arson and explosives group supervisor from the ATF's Seattle Field Division.

"We hope the deployment of National Response Team resources will allow the residents of Maui, and the state and nation as a whole, to know that we will do everything in our power to support our local counterparts in determining the origin and cause of the wildfires there, and hopefully bring some healing to the community," ATF Seattle Field Division Special Agent in Charge Jonathan McPherson said in a statement.

The wildfire erupted Aug. 8, and has resulted in a confirmed death toll of 111, though officials have repeatedly warned that the figure is expected to increase with hundreds still missing and only 45% of the territory searched.

Federal investigators were being dispatched to Maui to investigate the cause of the fire that has killed at least 110 people. Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Foster/U.S. Army National Guard/UPI
Federal investigators were being dispatched to Maui to investigate the cause of the fire that has killed at least 110 people. Photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew A. Foster/U.S. Army National Guard/UPI

The county of Maui said the Lahaina fire was 89% contained as of Thursday morning and has burned an estimated 2,170 acres.

The team was dispatched as Maui officials citing power monitoring company Whisker Labs point to damaged power lines as potentially the cause of the fire.

FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams work with local fire departments and National Guard in Lahaina, Maui, on Wednesday. Photo by Dominick Del Vecchio/FEMA/UPI
FEMA Urban Search and Rescue teams work with local fire departments and National Guard in Lahaina, Maui, on Wednesday. Photo by Dominick Del Vecchio/FEMA/UPI

Maui Emergency Management Agency Administrator Herman Andaya also resigned Thursday citing health reasons, as he came under scrutiny over reports that emergency sirens were not activated during the fire and that island fire hydrants had ran dry.