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150-acre wildfire forces closure of H-2 freeway


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POSTED: Sunday, September 06, 2009

Firefighters battled a spectacular wildfire yesterday that sent smoke above the H-2 freeway and forced police to close northbound lanes for about five hours.

Honolulu fire Capt. Terry Seelig said the fire started about 12:35 p.m. from an unknown cause and burned about 150 acres in the Waiawa Ridge area. This was the second Waiawa Ridge fire in a week.

Responding firefighters found the blaze moving in several directions and encroaching within several hundred yards of the Wahiawa-bound lanes of the H-2. Police closed those lanes shortly after 1 p.m.

Shortly after 3 p.m., the wildfire burned near Hawaiian Electric Co. poles carrying lines that crossed over the H-2, forcing the closure of the town-bound lanes, officials said.

After HECO determined the poles were not damaged, the town-bound lanes were reopened about 4 p.m.

The Wahiawa-bound lanes remained closed, however, backing traffic up to Pearl City.

Darryl Tupinio, who was caught in the traffic, said he could see the flames once he reached the H-1 Waipahu on-ramp.

Police reopened the Wahiawa-bound lanes about 6:20 p.m.

About 60 Honolulu firefighters fought the fire with 11 engines and four water tankers. Two fire helicopters and one police helicopter made water drops, while about 10 federal firefighters helped on the ground.

City bulldozers helped build fire breaks.

Shortly before 6 p.m., Hawaiian Electric Co. considered de-energizing lines where firefighters were working, which would have caused outages in Pearl City, Waipio Gentry and other areas, a HECO spokesman said. The measures were not necessary and the power stayed on.

No HECO utility poles were damaged by the fire, Seelig said.

Earlier last week, a fire in the same area burned about 350 acres and also temporarily forced closures of the H-2 freeway. The cause of the first fire was not determined.

No one was hurt and no structures were damaged by the latest fire.

Firefighters plan to return today to extinguish the blaze.