370 acres of cane burned in Paia fire

The pilot of Maui County’s new twin-engined helicopter, Iolani 1, drops a load of water on a hot spot Saturday. The Airbus/Eurocopter BK117-850D2 is capable of delivering 300-gallon loads. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Maui News

Maui Fire Department crews Sunday continued to mop up hot spots in Paia cane fields after gusty winds on the north shore fueled a brush fire Saturday afternoon that scorched about 370 acres.

The fire, which began around 3:40 p.m. Saturday was fully contained around 11 p.m. with crews continuing to mop up embers and patrolling the fire perimeter inside the cane fields across the street from Baldwin Beach Park and Paia Bay, fire officials said.

About 30 acres had already burned brush mauka of Lower Paia Beach Park or “Baby Park” when fire crews responded to calls around 3:40 p.m. with five engines, three tankers, fire emergency callback personnel, including a specialized wildland firefighting unit, and Air 1 and 2 helicopters.

When crews arrived on scene, they found that the brush fire was “moving rapidly with steady winds,” which were clocked at 10 to 20 miles per hour. Officials said that the limited access to the field made initial firefighting efforts challenging.

The Hawaii Department of Transportation’s Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting crew as well as Mahi Pono farming company’s water tankers and heavy machinery were on scene. Goodfellow Bros. also assisted.

The brush fire had grown from the corner of Paia Bypass Road in the area of a homeless encampment and down toward the mauka side of Spreckelsville, prompting closure of Hana Highway at the Haleakala Highway intersection and diverting drivers on alternative routes.

As the brush fire continued through Saturday afternoon, children from the Paia Youth & Cultural Center sat on the makai side of Hana Highway on the fence lining the bike path and watched the firefighters. They pointed and shouted when the burning vehicles hidden in the brush sent up plumes of dark black smoke and as car tires in the cane fields exploded.

As the Paia brush fire was considered 90 percent contained a little after 8 p.m. Saturday, the highway was reopened to traffic.

Some hot spots could be seen from Hana Highway around 9 p.m. and crews remained on scene throughout the night to secure the perimeter of the fire and to ensure there were no flare-ups.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.


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