UPDATE: Kahikinui Brush Fire Burns 5500 Acres, Shelters Open

February 16, 2016, 5:36 AM HST · Updated February 18, 6:13 AM
Wendy Osher · 25 Comments
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***UPDATE: The Kahikinui fire remains active and was 40% contained by Wednesday afternoon, Feb. 17, 2016. An update is now posted at the following direct LINK.

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    Shelters for displaced residents who live in the Kahikinui Homesteads have been opened at Keokea Park in Kula, at 6 p.m.

    “We are discouraging anyone who does not live in the Kahikinui Homesteads from entering the area,” said Maui Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto.

    Firefighters are still battling the brush fire burning in the Kahikinui area on the south side of Haleakala.

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    At 2:00 p.m. the fire was estimated to be about 5500 acres. The fire has
    burned brush on both the mauka and makai sides of Piilani Highway from mile post 23 to mile post 27.5. Currently, the fire is burning upslope towards Haleakala Crater to the north.

    In some areas the fire has burned all the way to the ocean below the highway, and to about the 3,500 foot level on the mauka side of Piilani Highway.

    This afternoon a female resident was evacuated by helicopter as fire advanced on her home in the Homesteads. At last report, fire did not affect the woman’s home. So far, only a weather monitoring station was lost in the fire.

    The fire is at least 2 miles to the east of the Auwahi Windmills so it’s not
    yet a concern.

    Bulldozers have been cutting firebreaks above the mauka fire flank and around homes in the Kahikinui Homesteads. At one point there were 5 helicopters conducting water drops by air since most of the advancing fire are inaccessible to fire vehicles.

    Fire personnel will be remaining throughout the night to monitor for flare ups that may threaten homes.

    Previous post:

    UPDATE: 4:15 p.m. 2/16/16, The Keokea Community Center will be open to the public at 8 p.m. for individuals and families who may be told to evacuate due to the ongoing brush fire in Kahikinui. Earlier this afternoon, Maui Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto informed us that the fire had spread and the burn area covered an estimated 2,500 acres. Crews did not have a handle on the fire at last report, and firefighters remain on scene.

    Previous post:

    A brush fire in Kahikinui burned about 1,500 acres by nightfall on Monday, and forced the closure of the Piʻilani Highway between miles 22 and 27.  Maui Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto said the department received multiple reports at around 5:40 p.m., indicating there were five separate brush fires burning along the highway near Mile 25 in Kahikinui.

    Fire and police personnel began evacuating homes in the Kahikinui Homesteads area downwind of the fire last night.

    Fire officials say most of the fire is inaccessible for fire trucks, and crews were using the department’s Air 1 helicopter to conduct water drops until darkness forced it to return to the airport.

    By 7:30 p.m., the fire had spanned two miles along both the mauka and makai sides of the highway.

    Tod Hana, a resident of Kaupō said he had an “unparalleled experience” with the brush fire prior to the arrival of fire crews saying, “Drivers were flagging down the cars passing towards the fire yelling ‘Don’t go! Turn around!'”

    “We approached the fire head on and saw that the flames were so large they were blowing violently across the highway,” said Hana.  “You could feel the heat from inside the car.”

    Prior to the closure of the highway, Hana said, “There were people driving through it at full speed trying to make it through the flames.”

    Kula and Makawao engines and two water tankers remained on scene last night.

    Maui FSC Taomoto said firefighting operations are underway, so it is still too early to tell how the fire may have started.

    Just last week, firefighters battled a brush fire near Mile 26 of the Highway in Kahikinui.  That fire, reported on Tuesday, Feb. 9, was believed to be a rekindle of underground organic matter from a brush fire reported more than two months ago in November of last year.

    Kahikinui fire, Feb. 16, 2016. Photo credit: Maui Fire Department.

    Kahikinui fire, Feb. 16, 2016. Photo credit: Maui Fire Department.

    Kahikinui fire, Feb. 16, 2016. Photo credit: Maui Fire Department.

    Kahikinui fire, Feb. 16, 2016. Photo credit: Maui Fire Department.

    Kahikinui fire, Feb. 16, 2016. Photo credit: Maui Fire Department.

    Kahikinui fire, Feb. 16, 2016. Photo credit: Maui Fire Department.

    Kahikinui fire, Feb. 16, 2016. Photo credit: Maui Fire Department.

    Kahikinui fire, Feb. 16, 2016. Photo credit: Maui Fire Department.

    Kahikinui fire, Feb. 16, 2016. Photo credit: Maui Fire Department.

    Kahikinui fire, Feb. 16, 2016. Photo credit: Maui Fire Department.

    Kahikinui fire, 2/15/16. Photo credit: Spencer Boomer.

    Kahikinui fire, 2/15/16. Photo credit: Spencer Boomer.

    Kahikinui fire, photo taken at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, credit: Kalepa Farm.

    Kahikinui fire, photo taken at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, credit: Tod Hana.

    Kahikinui fire, photo taken at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, credit: Daithi Magee

    Kahikinui fire, photo taken at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, credit: Daithi Magee

    Kahikinui fire, photo taken at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, credit: Kalepa Farm.

    Kahikinui fire, photo taken at around 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, credit: Tod Hana.

    Kahikinui fire, photo taken at around 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, credit: Kalepa Farm.

    Kahikinui fire, photo taken at around 6 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, credit: Tod Hana.

    Wendy Osher
    Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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