GARY T. KUBOTA / GKUBOTA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Helicopters were being used during part of yesterday to fight a forest fire on Maui that now covers 600 acres. Visibility was limited in some places due to cloud cover.
Maui forest fire expands to 600 acres
WAILUKU » What began as a 25-acre fire has expanded into a blaze covering about 600 acres in the Polipoli Forest Reserve in Kula, Maui.
"It's a pretty good size. It's going to take a while to get a handle on it," said Pete Vorhes, a pilot whose Windward Aviation helicopter was making water drops on the blaze.
The fire is located in dense forest with pine trees at an elevation of between 6,000 and 7,600 feet along the slopes of Haleakala, county information officer Mahina Martin said.
Martin said more than 45 people are fighting the fire, including personnel from Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island.
Fire officials said the fire is about 30 percent contained, down from the previous level of 60 percent containment.
"This reduction in containment reflects the increased acreage of the burn area and is the result of typical fire behavior affected by low relative humidity, the day's warm climate and the increase in wind," said John Cumming, an official with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Four helicopters made water drops yesterday but were forced to stop in midafternoon because of cloudy conditions, Martin said. Fire officials also used six bulldozers to create fire breaks.
With tradewinds blowing the smoke away from the national park, the Haleakala Visitor Center at the summit of Haleakala reopened yesterday.
Mayor Charmaine Tavares said the fire is being monitored in the event of any danger to residents. "The safety and protection of life and property continues to be foremost of our concerns," she said.
The fire was first noticed Tuesday by a person at the Polipoli state park. Fire officials said they do not know the cause.