Kohala brush fire contained, mop-up continues

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The brush fire that burned more than 3,000 acres in Kohala was reduced to a couple of smoldering areas by Tuesday afternoon.

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The brush fire that burned more than 3,000 acres in Kohala was reduced to a couple of smoldering areas by Tuesday afternoon.

The fire that sparked Saturday afternoon and spread rapidly from near the intersection of Kawaihae Road and Queen Kaahumanu Highway was 95 to 98 percent contained, Battalion Chief Joseph Farias said. A refined plotting of the burn area found 3,033 acres were scorched.

State Division of Forestry &Wildlife personnel were accessing a smoldering area on the southwest flank of the Kohala Mountains by hiking down from Kohala Mountain Road, cutting fire lines with hand tools and using backpack sprayers, Farias said. Hawaii County firefighters worked to extinguish flames in an area of kiawe and dense brush south of Spencer Beach Park on Tuesday afternoon.

Other smoldering areas were well within the burned area, or within gulches where the fire was not accessible and was surrounded by stone walls that kept the fire from spreading, Farias said.

A bulldozer cut a break on the western flank of the fire to prevent the flames from spreading north into developments along Akoni Pule Highway.

Puukohola Heiau National Historic Site remained closed after the fire scorched much of the park’s vegetation. The blaze came within feet of the visitor center and headquarters, but firefighters were able to quench the flames before they damaged the buildings.

The fire melted phone lines and solar light fixtures at the park, but historical structures were not damaged. However, the fire and threat of impacts from Tropical Storm Hilda prompted the park to cancel its 43rd annual Hookuikahi Establishment Day Hawaiian Cultural Festival, which was scheduled for this weekend.

The Hawaii Fire Department will post a night watchman, and expects to be in the area addressing flare-ups in the coming days, Farias said.

In all, the fire did minor damage to some shed-like structures and superficial damage and charring to a home, but firefighters — which earlier in the week also included volunteer units, DOFAW, the National Park Service and crews from Pohakoloa Training Area — were able to keep the blaze from destroying homes by focusing resources where residences were threatened.

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“There were no injuries and we didn’t lose any structures,” Farias said. “Nobody is without a home tonight.”

Email Bret Yager at byager@westhawaiitoday.com.

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