Tuesday | April 21, 2015
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Kona brush fire scorches 1.5 square miles

Firefighters on Sunday got the upper hand on a 1,000-acre brush fire that ignited Saturday morning near the Kohanaiki Business Park in North Kona.

The fire, which broke out around 11:15 a.m. Saturday in dry brush near Hulikoa Drive, above the Queen Kaahumanu Highway Matsuyama Food Mart, is considered under control, but not yet contained, said Sundae Aribal, a Hawaii Fire Department captain and the incident’s commander. The 1,000-acre burn area stretches from Hulikoa Drive mauka toward Wainani Estates, located off Kaiminani Drive.

Fire personnel were slated to remain on scene through the night dousing any hot spots or flare-ups. Mop-up operations are expected to resume today.

“Cooperative” weather and the assistance of two Hawaii County helicopters providing water drops in area inaccessible to the department’s apparatuses and personnel helped give the fire department an upper hand Sunday, Hawaii Fire Department West Hawaii Battalion Chief Reuben Chun said. Bulldozers were working Sunday afternoon to complete a firebreak around the blaze.

Chun added that firefighters dealt with no major flare-ups thanks to calm winds in the area — a change from Saturday’s conditions.

Fueled by onshore winds, dry conditions and warm temperatures Saturday afternoon, the fire quickly grew from an estimated 100-by-100-foot area to 400 acres and later 1,000 acres.

No structures were threatened and no injuries were reported. The fire did come within 50 yards of a construction site below Kakahiaka Street and near homes within the Lokahi Makai subdivision.

While no structures were deemed threatened, the fire department Saturday afternoon did order the evacuation of 300 residents from the Lokahi Ka‘u Affordable Apartments, located at the end of Kakahiaka Street. Residents were allowed to return home around 5 p.m.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

A total of 16 units, including personnel from various Hawaii Fire Department and volunteer fire stations, responded to the fire Saturday. On Sunday, at least five units, in addition to the two helicopters, assisted in the effort.