Firefighters rein in Waialua brush fire

Firefighters rein in Waialua brush fire

17 August 2007

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The Waialua brush fire, Oahu’s largest this season, was finally tamed yesterday, while a couple of smaller ones popped up elsewhere.

The 6,700-acre wildfire had not grown since Wednesday and was 80 percent contained by yesterday afternoon, said Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Frank Johnson.

Gov. Linda Lingle declared a statewide fire emergency yesterday, paving the way for help from the National Guard and state loan programs.

A state loan program will make available commercial and personal loans through the state, according to Lingle.

According to Lingle’s emergency declaration, state and county firefighters have fought nine wildfires on four Islands since July 1. The fires scorched 18,500 acres.

The Waialua fire, which began on Sunday, had climbed three miles up the Waialua side of the Waianae Mountain Range yesterday, according to Johnson. On Tuesday it had gone less than half a mile up.

Five helicopters — one military, two police and two from the Fire Department — dropped bucketfuls of water as fires continued to dot the mountainside.

Rancher Bob Cherry said the blaze flared up again yesterday. “It’s right above my ranch house,” he said, estimating that it was about 300 yards away.

Cherry said he used a bulldozer to cut a firebreak above his house. The flames were above the firebreak, “but you never know,” he said. “A freak gust of wind could jump it.”

While farmers and ranchers have suffered losses in the thousands of dollars to crops, grazing areas and equipment, no homes or lives were lost.

“We’ve been very vigilant about protecting the homes in the area,” Johnson said.

In Waianae about 60 firefighters doused a 10-acre brush fire at the end of Paheehee Road which began shortly before 10:23 a.m. and was contained by 2:25 p.m.

The fire did not threaten any homes, Johnson said.

In Kapolei, construction workers helped to prevent the spread of another brush fire near the Kmart on Kamokila Boulevard.

John Liese, project manager for Delta Construction, said he came out of his office and immediately started calling their trucks and machinery. He and his crew were working on extending Kamokila Boulevard when the fire erupted.

“We all pitched in to fight it,” he said.

They used a front-end loader to cut a 2,000-foot-long fire break, and their water trucks (normally used for dust control) began taking care of the flames, Liese said.

The blaze, which began at 2:38 p.m., burned three acres. Firefighters left the scene at 4:04 p.m.

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