Crews quashing
final embers

Honolulu firefighters' six-day battle with a Kunia brush fire that threatened native plants and animals is nearly over.

"We're pretty confident that it is contained," Fire Capt. Emmit Kane said yesterday. "There are some smoldering stumps but nothing we feel is going anywhere."

Fire officials are expected to do an aerial assessment this morning to ensure there are no flare-ups. The fire burned about 220 acres since Wednesday.

The fire started in a gulch at a pineapple field across from the Hawaii Country Club on Kunia Road. The blaze spread mauka into the central part of the Nature Conservancy's 3,692-acre Honouliuli Preserve.

Firefighters have battled hot spots in the Waianae Mountains for days. Officials from the Nature Conservancy and the state Forestry and Wildlife Division also assisted firefighters extinguishing the smoldering areas. Firefighters left around 6:30 p.m. yesterday.

Biologists equipped with global positioning system units also conducted a preliminary assessment to determine the extent of damage caused by the fire, detect any habitats that were affected and look for Hawaiian cultural sites, said Pauline Sato, the Nature Conservancy's Oahu program director. Biologists are expected to assess the damage at the preserve later this week.

Sato said she believed the fire is the largest ever at the preserve. She said biologists are worried that the fire may have damaged a habitat of the elepaio, an endangered Hawaiian forest bird. The Honouliuli Preserve is one of their primary habitats. An estimated 1,000 elepaio are left on Oahu.

"We think the (elepaio) territory is very nearby," Sato said.

A preliminary survey showed that the affected area is mostly populated with non-native plants and trees. The fire's cause is unknown.

Meanwhile, the Army postponed plans to do a controlled burn of 1,300 acres of brush at the Schofield Barracks' West Range Training Area because firefighters were still battling hot spots in Kunia.


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