A Maui Fire Rescue helicopter made a water drop yesterday to help put out a wildfire near a residential area in Lahaina. CLICK FOR LARGE
Fires char neighbor isles
Officials urge caution on July Fourth as dry conditions prevail
WAILUKU » Major brush fires are erupting on some neighbor islands as dry conditions prevail this summer, making county officials nervous about the prospects of fireworks on the Fourth of July.
"Regardless of whether the fireworks is small or major, conditions are dry, so any carelessness could trigger an incident," Maui County spokeswoman Mahina Martin said. "We're asking residents to keep this in mind."
Major brush fires have already occurred in what is expected to be a very dry summer on the Big Island and in Maui County:
» June 4: 3,000 acres at Kaluakoi in west Molokai
» June 27: 2,600 acres between Olowalu and Launiupoko in west Maui.
» July 1: More than 9,100 acres in Waikoloa, not contained.
» July 3: 180 acres in Lahaina, nearly contained.
Brush fires on the Big Island and Maui were continuing to burn last night, the biggest in Waikoloa, where some 9,139 acres have burned at last report.
On Maui, a brush fire has burned some 180 acres, prompting the evacuation of least 150 people from a homeless shelter and rental project in Lahaina. The homeless-shelter residents returned late yesterday afternoon, with the fire reported to be nearly contained.
More than 80 school-age children at Summer Pals were evacuated from the nearby Lahaina Aquatic Center and walked a couple of blocks makai to spend the day at Kamehameha III Elementary School.
The blaze near the aquatic center is the third brush fire within a week in west Maui.
Summer Pals leader Travis Manuel said youths in the program were standing in line ready to enter the aquatic center when the brush fire flared up.
"It just got bigger," Manuel said.
West Maui residents said they were becoming skeptical when government officials say the fires are nearly contained, especially in view of strong winds.
The largest one, which began in Olowalu last Wednesday, flared up after winds blew in excess of 50 mph. Manuel said several Summer Pals leaders were stranded in the Olowalu fire and had to spend the night as guests at a home in west Maui.
That blaze eventually burned an estimated 2,600 acres and two homes.
"It spread so fast," said Launiupoko resident Joan McKelvey.
Martin said that although the Olowalu fire was contained, fire officials were still monitoring it.
A brush fire burned some 3,000 acres near the Kaluakoi resort in west Molokai in early June.
The brush fires in west Maui have become increasingly disruptive to traffic flowing between Kahului Airport and major resorts in Kaanapali and Kapalua. Last week's brush fire stranded hundreds of visitors, forcing them to stay in emergency shelters at night.
As little rain is predicted until October, county officials here fear conditions are increasing for more brush fires.