Big Isle fire threatens Waimea community
WAIMEA, Hawaii » Friends with garden hoses climbed onto Julia Brotman's uncle's house and watered the roof and yard as a 160-acre brush fire burned just beyond a fence, the 14-year-old girl said yesterday evening.
Firemen were jumping over the fence in South Kohala View Estates just outside Waimea to go after flames that Brotman could not see, since the smoke was so heavy, she said.
At sundown the Fire Department said the fire was still out of control, although firebreaks, water drops and the terrain were slowing it.
The fire was reported at 2:11 p.m. a half-mile uphill on the edge of Kohala Mountain Road, the department said.
Just minutes earlier, windblown debris caused a short circuit in a 34,000-volt transmission line in the same spot. The short circuit knocked power lines to the ground, Hawaii Electric Light Co. officials said.
Fire Chief Darryl Oliveira said it was probable that sparking power lines started the fire.
Matt Hughes was at his daughter's house in South Kohala View at about that time, looked up the steep Kohala hillside and saw 6-foot-high flames jumping from one clump of bushes to another.
Arriving firefighters told him to evacuate, but Hughes went back inside the house and stayed. "I didn't feel I was in danger," he said.
Oliveira said evacuation started as voluntary, a precaution against smoke rather than fire, and later was made mandatory. It was canceled shortly after sundown.
At least 40 homes were evacuated in the affluent community of small lots but large houses, three miles down Kawaihae Road from the center of Waimea.
The department put 16 engines, tankers and other equipment in action, including two helicopters making water drops. Private bulldozers, a private helicopter and military equipment including a tanker also attacked the blaze.
Fire crews planned to work through the night, the department said.