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Thursday, May 12, 2005



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CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Firefighters from Engine 42 got ready to go back into the valley behind Lyman Ranch yesterday to extinguish the brush fire that has been burning in Nanakuli since Tuesday. According to Fire Capt. Emmit Kane, the fire has consumed more than 450 acres, with additional, separate fires springing up in the area. Approximately 130 firefighters from the Honolulu Fire Department and federal government were working yesterday with help from five helicopters.




Nanakuli brush fires
frustrate crews

Blazes of "suspicious" origin spare
homes but threaten species


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Numerous suspicious brush fires threatened homes and rare native plants and animals in the Waianae Mountains yesterday, taxing the island's firefighting resources.

The first major brush fire of the season, which began Tuesday, flared up overnight, destroying about 450 acres of mountainside in Nanakuli Valley by day's end. Also, four other, smaller brush fires broke out.

About 135 city, state and federal personnel using 26 apparatuses including five helicopters battled the fire. Two firefighters were treated for dehydration yesterday, and another who was injured when he fell was taken to Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center.

Last night, five fire companies returned about 9 p.m. "The lower leg of the fire seems to be moving along a river bed a half to three-quarters of mile at the end of Nanakuli Avenue," said Capt. Emmit Kane. He said the winds might be shifting in a westerly makai direction. The fire, however, is continuing to move in an easterly direction but far from homes.

The fire came down the hillside within a few feet of Flame Kila's back yard yesterday afternoon, stopping just above a concrete drainage ditch.

"I didn't think elementary school kids could do this," said the Nanakuli resident.

Kila, who lives on Mokiawe Street, said she saw two young boys on the hillside just beyond her back fence. "Five minutes later I heard the crackling of the fire, and my neighbor said the mountain's on fire," she said.

"I was in a total panic," said Kila, whose neighbor helped care for three youngsters she baby-sits and a young niece and nephew, while she moved a goat and cars off the property and watered down her back yard. "It moved so fast."

A line of orange flames visible from Farrington Highway continued to devour dry grass and shrubs at day's end deep in Nanakuli Valley. The area is well above the end of Nanakuli Avenue and Lyman Ranch.

The fire began at about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday near 89-610 Mokiawe St. and was contained at 6:36 p.m. But overnight the prevailing winds shifted from mauka to makai and migrated downhill toward the rear of homes along Haleakala Avenue, Kane said. Several companies were deployed and brought the fire under control at around 6:30 to 7 p.m.

Three Marine helicopters as well as a state helicopter and a county helicopter dropped water on the fire.

Kane said most of the brush fires, including those at St. John's Road, Kaukamana, Mokiawe and Helelua streets, were "suspicious in nature."

It took about 10 companies and several hours to fight the fire at Mokiawe Street, he said.

The major brush fire had worked its way back along Puu Haleakala, the hillside above Haleakala Avenue, along the mountainside back into the valley when firefighters left the scene yesterday at 6:30 p.m.

The fire appeared to pose a threat to the several rare plants and animals in the Palikea Trail area. They include an endangered tree snail and a unique species of lobelia found only in the Waianae Mountains, as well as native birds (honeycreeper, owl and elepaio), said Pauline Sato, Oahu program director for the Nature Conservancy.

Honolulu Fire Department
www.honolulufire.org


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