A firefighter from Olomana Station doused some of the hot spots from a blaze that began yesterday during Marine and Army Guard field exercises at Bellows Air Force Station. Eleven fire companies, a military unit and three helicopters responded.

Brush fire scorches
70 acres in Kailua

No houses suffer damage but
smoke forces an evacuation

Charlotte Hashimoto was hurrying home from work at 12:30 p.m. yesterday when she saw a thick plume of smoke wafting over Kailua from the direction of her Keolu Hills home.

"That's a real scary feeling that there's a fire in the back of your house -- and it's so dry up there," Hashimoto said as she waited on Hele Street at 1:30 p.m. yesterday with a dozen neighbors while firefighters fought a brush fire that eventually burned 70 acres near their homes.

Police temporarily evacuated a block of homes on the mauka end of Hele Street nearest the fire because of heavy smoke.

Gathered under a shade tree with children and several dogs, the evacuated residents sipped on sodas and ate cookies that neighbor June Dukes brought them.

John Morgan Jr. said the last time there was a serious brush fire in the area was about 10 years ago and at night, when "you could see the flames over the mountain."

"Every now and then, there are some small brush fires, but they put them out. It's nothing as widespread as this," said Hashimoto, who has lived on Hele Street for 32 years.

By 2:30 p.m. firefighters had driven the fire back far enough that residents were allowed to return to their homes.

Firefighters responded to the blaze at 11:57 a.m.

Eleven Honolulu Fire Department companies and its Air One helicopter were assisted by one firefighting company and two helicopters from Kaneohe Marine Corps Base.

Firefighters attacked the brush fire from Kupau and other streets in the subdivision by running fire hoses up and over Kaiwa Ridge and from Tinker Road at Bellows Air Force Station.

The fire was under control by 3 p.m., Capt. Emmit Kane said, but some firefighters were expected to remain for several hours to watch for flare-ups.

A Marine Corps spokesman said that Kaneohe Marines and Hawaii Army National Guard soldiers were training in the area when brush caught on fire along Kaiwa Ridge.

Maj. Chris Hughes, Kaneohe spokesman, said the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Several roads on the ridge helped act as firebreaks, and "all the guys did an excellent job," said Capt. Byron Akiona, who retires Sunday after 31 years with the Fire Department.

John Scrivner, who lives at the top of the ridge, said he was really concerned when he saw "flames 30 to 40 feet high on the side of the mountain." But thanks to the firefighters, he said, "nobody's house got burned."

Residents in Manoa, Kaimuki and Waikiki reported smelling the fire's smoke, which blew over the Koolau Mountains.

Reporter Gregg Kakesako contributed to this article.


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