Brush fire

Hali­imaile blaze burns 4,300 acres

The Maui News - - Front Page - By COLLEEN UECHI

As­sis­tant City Edi­tor

A fire that came within half a mile of Skill Vil­lage had grown to 4,300 acres and was 75 per­cent con­tained as of Thurs­day after­noon, ac­cord­ing to the Maui Fire Depart­ment.

The blaze, which be­gan late Tues­day night in Hali­imaile, had dam­aged nu­mer­ous util­ity poles in the area but no other struc­tures. Skill Vil­lage res­i­dents, who’d been warned late Wed­nes­day night that they might have to evac­u­ate, were able to stay in their homes, and Fire Ser­vices Chief Ry­lan Yat­sushiro said Thurs­day after­noon that no homes were un­der threat.

“We uti­lized doz­ers to cut a fire­break, which stopped it,” Yat­sushiro said.

On Thurs­day, crews were con­tin­u­ing to use heavy equip­ment to cut breaks around the perime­ter of the fire, while all other re­sources were work­ing on se­cur­ing the perime­ter. The Fire Depart­ment said that crews planned to work through the night to con­tain and mon­i­tor the fire.

Yat­sushiro said the cause was still un­known but that it was not re­lated to the wild­land fire train­ing that the depart­ment con­ducted Tues­day.

“It was a to­tally dif­fer­ent lo­ca­tion,” he said, adding that the train­ing took place on the south side of Haleakala High­way, be­low Keahua Road. The fire was first re­ported at 11:30 p.m. Tues­day on the makai side of Hali­imaile Road near the Maui Trap & Gun Club range, about 2 miles away from the train­ing lo­ca­tion, Yat­sushiro said.

High winds on Wed­nes­day cre­ated chal­leng­ing con­di­tions for fire­fight­ers and fu­eled the blaze, and on Thurs­day, clear, strong trade winds per­sisted, es­ti­mated at 20 mph with higher gusts, the depart­ment said.

There were 25 Maui Fire Depart­ment per­son­nel, the depart­ment’s Air One and Air Two heli­copters, two MFD tankers, sev­eral doz­ers and wa­ter tankers from pri­vate com­pa­nies re­spond­ing.

The fire came less than half a mile from Skill Vil­lage, ac­cord­ing to Yat­sushiro. Res­i­dent Rod An­tone said “it looked like it was in the cane field right next door,” but that wind con­di­tions were bet­ter than in pre­vi­ous fires.

“I didn’t nec­es­sar­ily feel in dan­ger be­cause of the prior fire where the smoke was blow­ing to­wards us . . . that was way more con­cern­ing,” he said Thurs­day. “But this one, it was night­time, it was a very bright fire, and we all came out of the house to watch it burn af­ter a while. But other­wise, the wind wasn’t blow­ing. It wasn’t push­ing to­wards us.”

An­tone said he also texted a neigh­bor who works for the Fire Depart­ment and was mon­i­tor­ing the progress.

“My son and I stayed up watch­ing Net­flix for as long as we could,” An­tone said. “I would go out ev­ery once in a while to see if it was get­ting closer, which it wasn’t.”

Em­ploy­ees at the HC&D quarry and the Cen­tral Maui Land­fill were evac­u­ated Wed­nes­day as a pre­cau­tion. Yat­sushiro said he did not ex­pect any more evac­u­a­tions, with the fire 75 per­cent con­tained. Crews would be mop­ping up and se­cur­ing the perime­ter through the night.

The fire shut down sev­eral Up­coun­try roads, in­clud­ing Hali­imaile Road, Haleakala High­way from Makani Road to Hana High­way and Pulehu Road be­tween Hansen and Omao­pio roads. Hali­imaile Road was the last to re­open by 9:40 a.m. Thurs­day, ac­cord­ing to Maui po­lice.

Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

MAUI FIRE DEPART­MENT photo

PHOTO BE­LOW: The Hali­imaile fire had more than dou­bled from about 1,900 acres on Wed­nes­day after­noon to 4,300 acres on Thurs­day after­noon.

ROD AN­TONE photo

PHOTO LEFT: A fire that started in Hali­imaile glows in the dis­tance on Wed­nes­day night, as seen from Skill Vil­lage. Res­i­dents were ad­vised to pre­pare for pos­si­ble evac­u­a­tion but were able to stay in their homes.

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