Northern Mariana Islands — Two large bush fires gobbled up about 60 acres of vegetation behind the former La Fiesta Mall in As Matuis and near Paupau Beach yesterday.
No one was reported hurt and firefighters stopped the blaze from spreading to houses behind the former La Fiesta Mall and the closed Palms Resort.
As of 5pm, there were still small fires and thick smoke engulfing the area.
Fire investigator Daniel R. Suel said they are still investigating the cause of the twin blaze, although they noted that brush fires usually break out in the same area near Paupau Beach every year.
Saipan Tribune learned from witnesses and firefighters that the first blaze broke out at noon in the bushy area on Tanko Drive behind the former La Fiesta building.
With hardly any rain in the last few weeks, the dry vegetation immediately ignited, the flames quickly crawling up the hill in As Matuis. Firefighters prevented the blaze from spreading to houses located on Rakka Drive.
At 4pm, the blaze jumped over the fence wall of the former La Fiesta and burned bushes and trees at a portion of the parking lot. Two firefighters moved to the parking lot and stopped the fire from spreading to the building.
Jolly, 50, who asked that he be identified only by his first name, said that when he left the house they were building along Rakka Drive at noon, he noticed that the bush fire had just started.
When he returned an hour later, the fire had already gobbled up a large area and firefighters, using a small fire truck, were already busy preventing the flames from spreading in the direction of a house.
A firefighter estimated that the first fire affected 20 to 30 acres of vegetation.
At 4pm, another fire broke out in a bushy area on the side of Chalan Pale Arnold near Paupau Beach, across the former La Fiesta Mall. As grasses were dry, the fire immediately spread. Firefighters used a large truck to prevent the blaze from jumping over the fence to Palms Resort.
A witness saw a white pickup truck parked near the side of the road that sped off. A few minutes later, the witness saw smoke then fire in the area.
The second fire also affected 20 to 30 acres of vegetation, a fire investigator said.
Thick smoke from the twin bush fires blanketed the highway for over an hour.
Last Friday just before noon, a fire hit the house of 75-year-old Chinese artist Lung Kung on Texas Road in Chalan Kanoa.
On April 16, a fire razed to the ground two houses and also engulfed the interior of an adjacent house along Ellegh Avenue in San Jose.
Last April 12, a fire struck the Islander Club behind the Gold Beach Hotel on Pupulu Drive in Garapan.
Last April 10 and 11, bush fires swept a big area and burned several banana plants at the former Botanical Garden in Papago.