AP PHOTO / WEST HAWAII TODAY, BARON SEKIYA
Hawaii County firefighters battled a brush fire about one mile above Waikoloa Village along the south side of Waikoloa Road on Sunday. The fire, which started Sunday, is the largest wildfire since a blaze in August 2005 blackened 25,000 acres above Waikoloa Village. Investigators will not be able to determine the cause of the fire until it is extinguished. CLICK FOR LARGE
Crews wary of Waikoloa fire
WAIKOLOA VILLAGE, Hawaii » Big Island firefighters remained posted throughout the night around a brush fire that burned 8,926 acres near Waikoloa Village, hoping it would consume its fuel source.
The fire burned away from the village after it started Sunday morning, and no populated areas were threatened.
Officials said arson is suspected, but an investigation cannot be done until the fire is out. Civil Defense chief Troy Kindred said he expected firefighting efforts to continue through the entire Fourth of July holiday.
"This fire is still out of control," Kindred said yesterday afternoon. That was because the fire was expected to hit patches of vegetation and flare up during the night. There was no wall of flame anywhere in the burn area.
Unpredictable local "topographical winds," influenced by terrain, made the course of the fire uncertain, Kindred said.
Man-made firebreaks and natural barriers such as old, barren lava flows surround the burn area, but firefighters were not calling the blaze contained.
The fire remained on the south side of the mauka-makai Waikoloa Road, keeping it away from the village. Fire breaks reinforced the barrier created by the road.
Uphill, firefighters worked to stop the blaze at Highway 190, Mamalahoa Highway. It jumped the highway briefly at times, but the hot spots were quickly doused, said Deputy Fire Chief Glen Honda. Two county helicopters, a private helicopter and a military CH-47 Chinook were used.
On the south and downhill sides, potential for more burning existed, but the fire would eventually hit old lava flows that lack fuel, Honda said.
The fire broke out shortly after 8 a.m. Sunday some distance off Waikoloa Road, and a red vehicle was seen leaving the area, leading officials to suspect the fire was deliberate, Honda said.
Three other, smaller fires over the weekend in the general North and South Kohala area -- at Puako, Mahukona and Akoni Pule Highway -- might have been arson, since the multiple outbreaks seemed more than coincidence, Honda said.
Official are concerned about the danger from fireworks tomorrow, but rather than ban fireworks on the Fourth, officials decided to post equipment at strategic spots, educate the public about the dangers and call for people to watch for suspicious activity, Kindred said.
The Waikoloa burn is the largest wildfire since a blaze in August 2005 blackened 25,000 acres above Waikoloa Village, burning right to the edge of the town and forcing evacuation of two-thirds of the residents.