Progress on Big Isle wildfire threatened

Progresson Big Isle wildfire threatened

31 January 2007

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Hawaii, USA — A runaway brush and grassland fire above Waikoloa in WestHawaii pushed by strong winds extended to 2,700 acres during the night, but wasnearly contained at daybreak, Civil Defense director Troy Kindred said.

No structures were damaged or in immediate danger, he said.

But forecasts of sustained 30 mph winds, gusting to 50 mph by midmorning,left officials nervous about keeping the fire contained.

Four bulldozers working through the night were able to cut a fire break twobulldozer blades wide around most of the burn area, Kindred said. While twoblade-widths are standard, one area on the downhill side of the fire, closest toWaikoloa, remained with only a one-blade-width cut at daybreak, Kindred said.

The danger to Waikoloa was considered minimal because wind was blowing fromthat direction, carrying flames away from the town.

While bulldozers worked to finish that work, three helicopters resumed waterdrops which had been conducted yesterday evening but were later called offbecause of darkness.

County fire fighters and other personnel plus military personnel fromPohakuloa Training Area, 78 in all, worked through the night, and their numberswere expected to grow during the day, Kindred said.

The fire of unknown origin started above Waikoloa about 4:20 p.m. yesterdayand ran uphill, crossing Mamalahoa Highway and then moving toward Saddle Road,although flames never reached that point.

Homes at Waikii, along Saddle Road, remained out of immediate danger.

Mamalahoa and the upper part of Waikoloa Road remained closed, Waimea policesaid.

A “downpour” of rain about daybreak soaked the Waimea area extendingtoward the fire zone 10 miles away, giving some assistance to firefighters,police said.

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