3 ‘suspicious’ fires flare in West Hawaii

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Firefighters continued to battle multiple brush fires Thursday night in South Kohala and North Kona that had consumed more than 300 acres by press time.

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Firefighters continued to battle multiple brush fires Thursday night in South Kohala and North Kona that had consumed more than 300 acres by press time.

Hawaii Fire Department Battalion Chief Gantry Andrade told West Hawaii Today that officials considered the fires “suspicious.” All of the fires, which closed several roads and backed up traffic, were reported shortly before 4 p.m. in dry brush and fountain grass near major roadways in the vicinity of the Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

“It’s unlikely multiple fires would start in multiple locations at the same time,” he said.

Fire Department investigators were on the scene and looking into the cause of the blazes Thursday night.

No homes were threatened or injuries reported, Andrade said.

Initial reports indicate the three fires that continued to burn Thursday night actually started at five separate points of origin, he said. At the height of the blaze Thursday afternoon, they combined into three separate fires.

The first fire was located mauka of the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and Highway 190 in South Kohala. It started in the vicinity of mile marker 50 on the Kona side of Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also referred to as the new Saddle Road, Andrade said. As of Thursday evening, it had burned about 18 acres and was not yet under control.

The second and third fires were located along Highway 190 between mile markers 16 and 18 in North Kona, he said. Both started on the mauka side of the highway.

One of the fires, located near mile marker 16, charred 280 acres and was not considered under control or contained as of press time. A bulldozer arrived on scene at about 7 p.m. to cut a perimeter around the blaze.

The other fire, located near mile marker 17, consumed about 24 acres and was deemed contained and under control by Thursday night, Andrade said.

Wind conditions were in firefighters’ favor throughout the afternoon and evening, with mild winds blowing out of the northeast that allowed crews to keep the fires from growing larger, he said.

An array of firefighters remained at the scenes of the fires as of press time, including state, county, volunteer and federal assets. During daylight hours, the firefighters were assisted by two Hawaii County helicopters performing water drops.

Fire personnel were to remain at the scene of the fires throughout the night, Andrade said. The closest residential area to the blaze is Puuanahulu, which is located several miles west of the fire locations.

Highway 190 remained closed Thursday evening in multiple locations, including at its intersection with Waikoloa Road in South Kohala and Kaiminani Drive in North Kona, because of the fires. A road closure also was in effect at the intersection of Daniel K. Inouye Highway and the old Saddle Road.

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Andrade said it was likely the road closures would remain in effect throughout the night.

Email Chelsea Jensen at cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com.

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