600 evacuated as Lanai brush fire burns 300 acres

600 evacuated as Lanai brush fire burns 300 acres

19 November 2008

published by www.starbulletin.com

USA — Firefighters used helicopters this morning to make water drops on hot spots of a brush fire that burned 1,000 acres on Lanai and forced the evacuation of 600 residents and visitors from a luxury resort at Manele Bay and nearby homes.

The fire broke out at about noon Tuesday in the Palawai Basin, gusty winds carried the fire southwest of Lanai City. The fire was no longer considered a threat to homes or the Four Seasons Resort Lanai and the strong winds that fanned the flames yesterday were weakening. But for a while yesterday, it was scary. At one point, the fire advanced so close that several vessels left for Maui, but were later recalled. “We were prepared to take the guests to Maui, if necessary,” said James Coons, an official with the sailing tour business Trilogy Excursions, who said four of his vessels left for Maui but were called back.

The road leading from Manele Harbor and the hotel to Lanai City was closed for about four hours as firefighters battled to control the spread of the blaze in extremely windy conditions, said Lanai resident Phyllis McOmber.

“It was so windy. I was standing up in a pavilion, and I had to hang on,” said McOmber, who had arrived by boat near noon.

McOmber said she had just arrived at Manele on the Lahaina-Lanai ferry at about 12:45 and had planned to drive home, but was told by authorities she had to stay at the beach park.

She said the park was filled with hundreds of visitors and hotel employees, along with shuttle buses. McOmber said the wind shifted, blowing the fire closer to the park, forcing all of them to move several hundred yards to the harbor for safety.

The fire was reported at 12:13 p.m. near Palawai Basin, then spread to near the Four Seasons Resort Lanai due to windy conditions, county spokeswoman Mahina Martin said. Martin said 13 firefighters from Maui along with three helicopters assisted in battling the blaze. Visitors returned to the hotel about 4:40 p.m. and the access road leading to Lanai City was reopened.

Martin said initial reports indicated there were no injuries and no damage to any structures.

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