Windy conditions persist, West Maui fire 60% contained

May 5, 2010, 12:10 PM HST · Updated May 5, 9:24 PM
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By Wendy Osher (Update 12:10 p.m. Wednesday, May 05, 2010)

Fire officials say windy conditions persist today, resulting in an updated estimate of 60% containment on a brush fire that began Monday afternoon in West Maui.  Crews are dealing with critical fire weather this afternoon in leeward areas across the state as a result of gusty trade winds and low humidity.

The department is expected to rotate about 45 firefighters with 3-4 companies throughout the day today.  Maui firefighters are again assisted by crews from the Department of Forestry and Wildlife.  The morning began with continued focus on efforts along the highway and monitoring for potential flare ups.  The fire burned a total of 1100 acres and remains under investigation.

By Wendy Osher (Update 8 a.m. Wednesday, May 05, 2010)

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Crews are expecting increased winds today and anticipate that to be a factor in today’s battle.  Air support started up again at daybreak and additional helicopters are on standby.

The department worked with a skeleton crew through the night and is expected to rotate 3-4 companies throughout the day.  Maui firefighters will be assisted again by crews from the Department of Forestry and Wildlife.

After 40 hours of battling a blaze in West Maui, fire officials declared it 90% contained Wednesday morning. The fire burned 1,100 acres since it first started Monday afternoon. Photo courtesy MPD Lahaina Patrol Commander, Charles Hirata.

Acting Assistant Chief Derrick Arruda said the focus now is on an area near the highway where large piles of old sugar cane have built up.  Last night, crews used an excavator to dig eight feet down and still found red embers.  The department is also using large machinery to break open other hot smoldering areas.

Arruda said a good fire break was set up in Olowalu around teen challenge and surrounding homes yesterday.  Crews are looking to extend that break past the Olowalu store.  He noted the large amount of kiawe trees that exist and the dry brush throughout the region.

Overnight, winds picked up slightly and caused some concern for flare-ups in the lower section.  That will be a main factor today as winds are forecast to increase.  Current wind speeds from the National weather service show Easterly winds blowing at 11-13 mph in West Maui.

The acreage burned remains at 1100-acres.  No injuries were reported.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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