Fireworks-sparked blaze burns

A brush fire started by fireworks came within 20 feet of The Dunes at Maui Lani Golf Course pro shop Friday, causing evacuations at the store and the course’s Cafe O’Lei restaurant, witnesses and fire officials said.

The fire broke out in an area of foliage fronting residential homes around the 18th hole, said Dean Kawabata, director of golf operations.

The fire came to the edge of the 18th fairway “within minutes” and strong trade winds caused a date palm near the pro shop to catch fire, he said.

“The date palm was over a hundred yards away from where the fire ended,” he added. “It’s kind of amazing” that it caught fire.

David Robinson of Lahaina, who pulled into the golf course parking lot to make a phone call Friday morning, saw the fire spread rapidly.

“By the time it went from that residential area to the golf course was three minutes. It just ripped through with the trade winds and just came right at us.”

Robinson added: “It was burning straight toward the parking lot and then the cops were, like, you better get out of here. It was coming right at you, but super good coordinating by the cops and firemen. They were right on it.”

Firefighters from Kahului, Wailuku, Makawao and the Maui Fire Department’s Air One helicopter responded to the area east of the restaurant at 10:52 a.m., said Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga. He said about three acres of dry brush were involved in the fire and it was brought under control at 12:20 p.m.

The golf course and The Dunes Pro Shop were reopened by 12:30 p.m., after being shut down around 11 a.m.

Fe Buregas, manager at the Cafe O’Lei at The Dunes restaurant, said that about 10 employees were preparing for their 12:30 p.m. opening and had to be evacuated into the parking lot. The restaurant was able to open at its normal time.

A separate fire broke out around 11:45 a.m. Friday at Mahaolu and Hoomoku streets, while firefighters were still working at the golf course, Mainaga said. He the size of the fire was about a half acre. It was brought under control at 12:20 p.m. and extinguished about 30 minutes later.

Mainaga said the cause of that fire is undetermined and still under investigation.

No injuries were reported in the two fires.

Kawabata said brush fires are common during the holiday.

“This is not the first Fourth of July fire we’ve had in the last 15 years.”

He said most of the fires in the past have been due to fireworks and added that last year, workers put out a fire around the same area off the 18th hole with fire extinguishers.

* Chris Sugidono can be reached at