Air One helicopter douses fire

The Maui News – A 5-acre brush fire in East Maui was extinguished Tuesday morning after the Fire Department’s Air One helicopter dropped water on the steep hillside mauka of Hana Highway, a fire official said.

Passing motorists reported the fire near Milepost 11 on Hana Highway in the Kailua area at 5:09 p.m. Monday, said Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto. Paia firefighters and a Kahului tanker responded, arriving at 5:45 p.m. to find about a quarter-acre of thick vegetation and large eucalyptus trees burning on the hillside about a mile on the Kahului side of Honomanu Bay.

Because of the steep terrain, firefighters couldn’t reach the fire by foot, Taomoto said. “Flames climbed up a near-vertical slope and burned 150 to 200 feet above the highway,” he said.

On Monday night, as burned debris fell onto the roadway, Hana Highway was closed to traffic for about three hours while firefighters assessed the situation, Taomoto said.

A light shower Monday night helped contain the fire, but it was still smoldering when firefighters left the scene at 9 p.m., he said.

Because of marginal weather and dwindling daylight Monday, Air One couldn’t be used.

The helicopter and Paia firefighters returned to the fire Tuesday morning, extinguishing it at 10:37 a.m., Taomoto said.

The fire’s cause was undetermined.