Smoke filled the sky Friday afternoon as firefighters battled a fast-moving brush fire that scorched about 8 acres in Kailua-Kona.
The fire broke out shortly after noon in vacant land makai of Hualalai Elderly Housing and north of Kamaaina Hale in Kailua-Kona.
It burned primarily brush and kiawe trees, and came within approximately 25 feet of some of the housing units, said Acting West Hawaii Battalion Chief Kaipo Parish.
The blaze was listed about 70 percent contained as of press time Friday, he said. A bulldozer was also establishing a perimeter.
Firefighters remained at the scene throughout the night to douse any hot spots and flare-ups, said Parish.
“We’re going to hit it hard tonight and, hopefully, put it to bed by tomorrow,” he said late Friday afternoon.
Residents at Hualalai Elderly Housing were asked to leave their units, but not forced to evacuate, Parish said.
They were allowed back into their homes around 3 p.m. Friday.
One of those residents, Pat McDonald, spent time watering down an area behind his unit before being asked to leave the area for his safety.
The 10-year Hualalai Elderly Housing resident expressed gratitude to the firefighters working just feet from him.
“It’s moving fast,” he said, also noting he suspects the fire was started by homeless people living in the area. “But, the (firefighters) are absolutely doing a good job.”
Another resident, Denise Maiden, who was spraying down the back of her unit with water, expressed some frustration with landowners who do not maintain their property, instead allowing fountain grass, kiawe trees and other brush to grow rampant.
Having lived through the 2005 Waikoloa fire, she said more needs to be done to reduce the natural fire hazards.
“It’s never an ‘if,’ it’s always ‘when,’ especially right here with the dead kiawe and brush,” she said about the possibility of a fire. “Whoever owns property needs to take care of it. There needs to be a fine, or something.”
Kailua Fire Station Capt. Michael Andrade said the fire had “engulfed” the field of brush located makai of Hualalai Elderly Housing prior to the department’s arrival. Southerly winds fanned the blaze north toward Hualalai Road, however, the fire never crossed the road.
Hualalai Road, which was closed shortly after the fire broke out, reopened also about 3 p.m., according to the Hawaii Police Department.
More than two dozen full-time and volunteer firefighters, assisted by two Hawaii County helicopters, worked throughout the afternoon to douse the blaze, Parish said.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though Parish said the blaze appeared to have ignited in land just north of Kamaaina Hale.