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Molokai brush fire grows to 7,200 acres


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POSTED: Monday, August 31, 2009

Four public schools on Molokai are closed today because of a brush fire that has charred more than 7,200 acres since Saturday.

The schools are: Molokai High, Molokai Middle, Kaunakakai Elementary, and Kualapuu Elementary Public Charter School. All other public schools on the island are open.

The fire was blowing in a westerly direction in central Molokai, including areas of Kalamaula and mauka of Kaunakakai, county spokeswoman Mahina Martin said this afternoon.

Martin said no portion of the fire has been declared contained as it continues to move up and down hillsides and gulches.

“We’re talking about a lot of terrain,” she said.

Some 40 county firefighters and 29 state wildland firefighters along with four helicopters making aerial water drops were battling the blaze.

Last night, an abandoned building near Kalamaula was burned, Martin said.

The fire of unknown origin began at about 12:05 p.m. Saturday and ran about six miles along Kamehameha V Highway.

Police ordered residents of 25 Molokai houses to evacuate yesterday as the fire threatened at least four residential areas.

About 70 personnel from state and county agencies fought the fire yesterday, along with five helicopters dropping water.

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

The shelter had two occupants last night. The Red Cross did not open a second shelter at Molokai High as planned last night after roads that had been closed in the area were reopened.