Fire crews save homes in Haiku

The Maui News

Firefighters successfully defended six homes from an approaching brush fire in Haiku that burned 50 acres and shut down Hana Highway in the area Wednesday night, a fire official said.

The fire in the rural area was called in at about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, and the first crews on the scene reported a half-acre blaze, said Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto. The fire was 200 to 300 yards makai of Hana Highway near the Haiku Road junction.

Brisk winds and heavy brush made fighting the fire difficult, he said, and it jumped a road that firefighters were hoping to use as a fire line.

Crews decided that it was too dangerous to attack the fire in the field of unburned brush and elected to take defensive positions near the homes in a direct line to the approaching fire, he said. Firefighters hit the approaching flames with streams of water to knock them down and to protect the homes, some of which had brush growing right up to them.

The fire got within 5 feet of some homes, Taomoto said.

However, the homes were not damaged. Occupants of the homes were evacuated for from about 8 to 11 p.m., said Taomoto.

While firefighters tamed the finger of the blaze approaching the homes, a Goodfellow Bros. bulldozer tackled the fire upwind and on the flanks by cutting firebreaks, said Taomoto.

The fire was contained just after midnight but has not yet been totally extinguished, he said. Fire crews checked the area Thursday and found no hot spots and planned to check again today.

The cause of the fire was undetermined, Taomoto said.

Traffic disruptions began on Hana Highway at 7:30 p.m. with contraflow between Haiku and Pauwela roads. That span was closed 10 minutes later, and the closure on the Kahului side was expanded to Maliko Gulch, according to county advisories.

The highway reopened at 10:25 p.m. Wednesday, Taomoto said.

A total of 28 firefighters from five companies battled the blaze, he said. They included three chief officers, three battalion chiefs, five crews from Paia, Makawao, Kahului (hazmat and engine) and Wailea and tankers from Kahului and Wailea.

They were aided by bulldozers and tankers from Goodfellow Bros. and the county Public Works Department.