USA — WAIANAE, OAHU — Firefighters were out late last night and up early this morning battling separate brush fires in Leeward Oahu, one of which caused a neighborhood to evacuate.
The fires illustrate just how fast the flames can spread when conditions are right. In some cases the flames got to within just 30 feet of homes. Fortunately nothing was burned except shrubs and dry grass.
Residents were awakened by the orange glow in the middle of the night getting ever so close to homes on Kulawae Street. That’s where police made the decision to evacuate people.
“I just want to leave the house and be safe. It seems like there are quite a few firemen to get the fire under control. I just want to be safe and do what the police said,” said Louisa Butler, evacuated from Kulawae Street.
“And it was so close to the houses that it was pretty much lighting up the street and you could see the wind pushing it toward the sea,” said Shavanna Santiaga, evacuated from Kulawae Street.
“They did the right thing and got people out of harm’s way as a precautionary measure. It’s always best to do things when you have time rather than to have to scramble when time isn’t there and you’re not going to be able to pull them off,” said Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department.
The fire started at 4:00 am. Forty acres had burned by the time the fire was contained two hours later. Firefighters think it was manmade although investigators are still working to see if it was accidental or intentional.
Speaking of investigations the Army has some explaining to do as to why a controlled burn grew out of control yesterday. It closed Kamehameha Highway between Haleiwa and Wahiawa and backed up the evening commute for miles.
The Army is initially blaming changing winds for pushing the flames out of the boundary. The military does have its own meteorologists, however the investigation will have to determine what they predicted as far as weather.
“They’ll do a complete investigation we have no doubt of that,” said Capt. Seelig. “We’ll learn a lot from what happened yesterday as far as the fire’s spread.”
Capt. Seelig says the Army did let the department know it would be doing a controlled burn. But HFD does not have the authority to advise the Army whether it’s a good idea considering conditions and time of year.
HFD says it is a good reminder to people that we are entering the dry season when fire danger is at its peak.