Sunday, June 24, 2001

After sunset a helicopter collected water from a canal
to battle the brush fire in Maili.

Waianae fire
pushes limits

The brush fire threatens
homes and an area hospital

By Leila Fujimori

A brush fire in Waianae threatened the Waianae Comprehensive Medical Center and several homes yesterday.

The blaze and a flare-up of Friday's brush fire in Kaneohe also stretched fire department resources. At least one in four firefighters on duty were battling brush fires yesterday, said Fire Department spokesman Capt. Richard Soo. Fire companies from as far away as Palolo and Manoa were called in and other companies had to be shifted around the island to cover for the units occupied with fires.

The fire burned to within 100 yards of the Waianae Comprehensive Medical Center and three homes on Mailiili Road near the hospital.

Smoke from the fire seeped into the emergency room where there were several patients on respirators, said Dr. Ivan Preis.

Kevin Pinero, 11, said he got on his razor scooter and headed for his uncle's house when he noticed the fire. "I thought the fire was going to burn my uncle's house down," he said.

John Coe, fire department incident commander, said the fire's cause seemed "suspicious." He said summer brush fires are a regular occurrence in the area.

The 40-acre fire was reported contained at 6:38 p.m. but was still not under control at 8 p.m.

Some 44 firefighters from 12 companies were at the scene.

Another brush fire in Kaneohe flared up at about the same time the Waianae fire started at about 5 p.m. Two companies responded to the fire which was extinguished at about 7:30 p.m.

Friday night, a brush fire in the same area burned an estimated 30 acres and closed the H-3 freeway from about 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. No homes were threatened.

Seven city companies, three federal companies and some marines helped contain that fire.

Arson is suspected.

Honolulu firefighters also assisted federal firefighters Friday night at a 10:19 p.m. alarm at a Wheeler Air Force Base townhouse. Eight city fire companies responded to that fire which was brought under control at 11:13 p.m.

The blaze gutted the townhouse leaving a family homeless. A man and a child escaped uninjured. Adjoining units in the two-story, four-unit townhouse were damaged by smoke and water, Soo said.

"It's the start of the brush fire season and it will be a busy season for us," Soo said. "It's only the third day of summer."

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