Saturday, July 19, 2003

10,000 acres up
in smoke on Big Isle

A suspicious fire, still strong
after 10 hours, forces the
evacuation of eight residences

A runaway brush fire burned about 10,000 acres of grassland and forced the evacuation of eight homes off South Point Road on the Big Island last night.

The fire was reported at 11:25 a.m. about five miles down South Point Road near Kau and was still out of control more than 10 hours later.


By 4:45 p.m., Big Island Civil Defense officials announced that they had evacuated eight homes near a windmill farm above the blaze. They also set up a roadblock at the junction of Kamaoa and South Point roads to prevent entry into the area.

American Red Cross officials set up a shelter at Discovery Harbor Community Center for evacuees.

The only structure destroyed by the fire was a home that was under construction, fire officials said.

Firefighters dropped water from a helicopter until 8:30 p.m. and set up a firebreak using several bulldozers.

Fire officials said the fire started near Kaalualu Bay and then traveled west across South Point Road.

Big Island police were also interviewing witnesses as they investigated how the fire started.

Fire Department officials would not release details last night except to say the fire's origin was suspicious.

The brush fire is the largest on the Big Island in recent memory. In May a fire in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park burned just less than 5,000 acres. Other fires in the park were in February, burning 1,980 acres, and in May to June 2002, torching 3,660 acres.

A fire on the edge of Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivision south of Hilo in 1998 burned 2,000 acres, and another in the same area in 1991 burned 4,000 acres.


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