Fire grows and shuts schools
The North Shore fire spreads on multiple fronts
STORY SUMMARY »
A stubborn brush fire in Waialua became a double threat yesterday, expanding in multiple directions to 5,000 acres and forcing two Waianae Coast schools to close.
The fire spread along the Waianae Mountain Range, toward Schofield Barracks and to the mountains above Waialua High School.
Smoke inundated the Waianae area. Makaha Elementary and Waianae High schools released students early yesterday and will be closed today.
The wildfire was being fought more aggressively from the air yesterday than on Monday, with helicopters dropping water in mountainous areas and gulches.
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A brush fire that devoured 5,000 acres in three days spread on different fronts yesterday -- along the Waianae Mountain Range into Schofield Barracks and as far makai as the mountains above Waialua High School.
Winds have been blowing in the Waianae direction, causing smoke to climb over the mountains and inundate the Waianae area.
Makaha Elementary and Waianae High schools will be closed today. The high school released students after lunch yesterday, and parents were allowed to pick up students at Makaha Elementary as early as 12:30 p.m. due to the smoke.
The American Red Cross and the city Department of Emergency Management set up a shelter at Nanakuli Beach Park for those bothered by the smoke.
Between 125 and 150 city firefighters from 27 companies fought the fire and were aided by federal firefighters. The fire moved in multiple directions and remained uncontained last night.
Kaukonahua Road remained closed yesterday, causing difficulties for residents and workers to travel in and out.
The closest call occurred when fire flared up around a ranch house on the Waianae side of Kaukonahua Road late yesterday morning. Firefighters successfully defended the home, Fire Capt. Terry Seelig said. The Poamoho ranch has horses on the opposite side of the road and remained safe, he said.
Waialua rancher Bob Cherry said he herded his 100 cows trapped by the fire to safety yesterday morning.
He estimates about $300,000 in losses, including burned fences, destroyed pasture and damaged water lines. Much of the grazing areas were consumed by fire leaving nothing for his livestock.
The wildfire was being fought more aggressively from the air yesterday than on Monday, with six helicopters making water drops in mountainous areas and gulches. Just two were in the air Monday. They included two military helicopters, two private ones contracted by the Division of Forestry and Wildlife, one police and one fire helicopter.
Seelig said winds last night had died down, but firefighters were unable to contain the fire.
The fire has traveled over the finger ridges of the Waianae Mountain Range into the gulches and in multiple directions. The Fire Department worked to prevent the fire from traveling over the mountain range, Seelig said.
The fire moved into Schofield Barracks about 11:20 a.m. yesterday, burning along the ridgeline of the Waianae Mountain Range, said Stefanie Gardin, an Army public affairs officer.
The fire did not threaten any housing or any structures on the base, Gardin said, but the fire burned into the training ranges on the northern boundary of Schofield.
The Benedictine Monastery of Hawaii in Waialua, perched atop the mountainside at 400 feet elevation, remained safe last night. Seelig said the area is clear of brush and has its own water tanks, available for the fire department to use.
Federal funding will be made available to the city and state to help cover the bulk of the cost of fighting the wildfire that began Sunday, Sen. Dan Inouye announced yesterday in a news release.
"Approval of our eligibility for fire management assistance grants and/or reimbursements came this morning from the Federal Emergency Management Agency," Inouye said.
DEALING WITH SMOKY CONDITIONS
The state Department of Health issued tips from the American Lung Association for those exposed to smoke and heavy dust due to the brush fire, which is also exposing large areas of land:
» Stay indoors and use an air conditioner, if available.
» Limit physical exertion.
» Drink plenty of fluids to loosen mucus.
» If you have medications, make sure you have an adequate supply and readily available.
» Call your doctor for clear instructions if your lung condition worsens or as soon as problems occur.
» Do not smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke.
For more information, call the Health Department at 586-4200, the American Lung Association at 537-5966 or contact your personal physician.
Makaha Elementary and Waianae High schools are closed today because of smoke from the brush fire.
Sources: State Departments of Education and Health