6p 6/8/10 Alternating Traffic on Honoapiilani Hwy; Maalaea fire burns 2,000 acres

June 8, 2010, 11:59 AM HST · Updated June 8, 10:32 PM
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By Wendy Osher

(Update 6:30 p 6/8/10)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wl6ed3NH6Jo[/youtube]

Maui Police re-opened the Honoapiilani Highway at around 6 p.m. (Tuesday, June 8, 2010) for contraflow travel using one lane of travel, following a six hour road closure.  Firefighters continue to battle a 2,000 acre blaze above Maalaea that was first reported at 10 p.m. Monday.

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Police are alternating traffic onto the makai lane of the Honoapiilani Highway between Mile Post 7 and the Maalaea Bay Shops.  Fire department equipment and personnel will utilize the mauka side of the highway in the Maalaea area.  Motorists are can expect delays.

The firefighting effort today included seven helicopters and 77 firefighters from multiple fire stations as well as a crew of 19 from the State’s Department of Forestry and Wildlife.  The air support included two Black Hawk helicopters provided by the National Guard at the request of Mayor Charmaine Tavares.

Firefighters were aided by heavy equipment and water tankers from the County’s Public Works Department and Hawaiian Cement Co.  Crews continue to battle the blaze in difficult and inaccessible terrain with wind conditions continuing to be a factor.

One firefighter was transported to Maui Memorial Medical Center this afternoon for smoke inhalation–the firefighter’s condition is reported to be stable.  No structures are reported damaged.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

(Supporting information Courtesy County of Maui)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7QzdcFH_mA[/youtube]

(Update 2:30 p.m. 6/8/10)

The Maalaea Brush fire that started 17 hours ago has now burned an estimated 2,000 acres.

Approximately 100 people have been evacuated from areas affected by the advancing fire and resulting thick smoke.  Evacuees include a handful of residents from the small pocket of homes in Maalaea, shoreline campers, people parked at the pali scenic lookout, and employees of the Kaheawa Wind Farm.

At 2:00 p.m. the American Red Cross opened shelters at the War Memorial Gym in Wailuku and the Lahaina Civic Center in West Maui.  Shelter users are advised that the Red Cross shelters will provide a sleeping cot and blanket for overnight use, water, and some snacks. Personal amenities are not provided.

Wind conditions with gusts reported at 40 mph are contributing to unfavorable conditions and the fire has crossed the Honoapiilani Highway to the makai side of the pali tunnel.

The Honoapiilani Highway remains closed between North Kihei Road and Ukumehame.  It was first closed shortly before noon today (Tuesday, June 08, 2010).

Maui Police have made driving through the Kahakuloa area available for Wailuku-bound motorists only. Motorists are reminded that the Kahakuloa route is narrow and can be dangerous for unfamiliar drivers. Access into Kahakuloa from the Wailuku-side is available only to residents of the area.

(Update 12:55 p.m. 6/8/10)

Windy conditions have moved a brush fire in a southwesterly direction –  causing Maui Police to close Honoapiilani Highway from the Kihei junction at North Kihei Road and Honoapiilani Highway to the Ukumehame area just before 12 noon today.

The fire was first reported Monday night at 10:00 p.m.  Motorists are advised to avoid the area.  There is no estimated time when the road will be reopened.

Fire crews from Wailuku, Wailea, Kahului and Lahaina are on scene. County officials say they will be joined soon by the Fire Department’s wildland fire crew.  The fire is located in difficult and inaccessible terrain and five helicopters have been deployed to conduct water drops to assist firefighters. The County of Maui also requested air support from the Hawaii National Guard.

Earlier today the Maui Fire Department requested that Kaheawa Wind Farm evacuate any employees at its site as winds reported to be between 15-20 mph with higher gusts pushed the fire towards the wind farm.

No injuries are reported, the cause of the fire is unknown.

(Update 11:59 a.m. 6/8/10)

County officials  closed the Honoapiilani Highway in the area of Maalaea due to an ongoing brush fire that has burned an estimated 200 acres by morning.  The fire was first reported at around 10 o’clock last night.  Winds were blowing in excess of 45 mph overnight.  Today, ground and wildland crews are being assisted by four helicopters that are doing water drops in the area.  Maui Fire Chief Jeff Murray said the fire was advancing in both the Mauka direction toward Lahaina and in the North direction towards Waikapu.  Heavy smoke is reported in the area that is impeding traffic at this time.  Again, the Honoapiilani Highway is closed between North Kihei Road and Ukumehame for an undetermined amount of time while firefighters battle an ongoing brushfire mauka of Maalaea.

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