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Some leave homes as blaze on Molokai burns 6,000 acres


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POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2009

Police ordered residents of 25 Molokai houses to evacuate yesterday as a raging brush fire scorched 6,000 acres and threatened at least four residential areas.

About 70 personnel from state and county agencies fought the fire yesterday, along with five helicopters dropping water, said Maui County Battalion Chief Val Martin.

“;It's not under control,”; said Martin at about 8 p.m. “;We're talking a very, very large fire.”;

The blaze ran about six miles along Kamehameha V Highway, a main traffic artery on the island.

The fire of unknown origin started at about 12:05 p.m. Saturday and burned mauka. Winds shifted the blaze yesterday morning, turning the fire toward Kaunakakai. Yesterday afternoon the fire threatened residents in Kalamaula Mauka, forcing evacuations.

The American Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at 4:30 p.m. yesterday for evacuated residents at Mitchell Pauole Community Center in Kaunakakai.

;[Preview]  Fire Crews Continue To Battle Molokai Brushfire, Residents Evacuate
 

The brushfire has destroyed about 6,000 acres so far and has residents from Kalamaula Mauka evacuating.

Watch ]

 

About four subdivisions in Kaunakakai continued to be threatened last night, Martin said. In some instances the fire burned right up to the homes or property lines.

The only reported damage was to a residential garage.

At one point the fire was just across the street from the Aqua Hotel Molokai in Kaunakakai.

“;The area near the hotel is pretty cleared out now, but the fire is still growing,”; said Mikee Gomes, concierge manager at the hotel.

“;The smell of the smoke is still very strong on the property, including my offices, but everything's pretty much getting back to normal,”; he said in a phone interview.

Gomes added that some guests were worried but that the hotel was never in immediate danger.

Along with many other residents, Ryan Link drove to Kaunakakai Wharf at midnight Saturday for the view.

“;I've never seen the island more alive,”; he said. “;It just lit up the sky. It was orange. It's kind of what it would look like down a volcano.”;

In his six years living on Molokai, he has never seen anything so dramatic, Link said.

“;It's ironic when the (water) rates are skyrocketing, and now everyone is using a lot of water,”; he said.

Four helicopters began water drops at sunrise yesterday, using Cooke Memorial Pool at Kaunakakai as a water source.

The state flew in 23 wild-land firefighters to Molokai, joining firefighters from Maui and workers from county Civil Defense and other agencies and private companies.

One firefighter was treated Saturday for smoke inhalation and released. No other injuries have been reported, Martin said.

Battalion Chief Martin thanked the community for its support and food. “;It's hard to work when you're hungry,”; he said.