Electrical Arc Suspected of Starting Māʻalaea Brush Fires
Fire crews responded to a brush fire reported on the West Maui Mountains near the intersection of North Kīhei Road and Honoapiʻilani Highway at 1:45 a.m. on Tuesday, May 24, 2016.
Wailuku firefighters arrived at the intersection at 1:56 a.m. to find a brush fire about three quarters of the way up the West Maui hillside.
Another separate brush fire was seen just east of the Maui Demolition and Construction Landfill at North Kīhei Road and Honoapiʻilani Highway.
Crews brought that fire under control at 3:01 a.m. and extinguished the half acre fire about an hour later, said Maui Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto.
A passing motorist reported seeing a bright flash near the landfill and electrical transmission lines. Fire officials say the witness then saw a blue colored light travel quickly along the transmission line, across the highway, and up the West Maui Mountain.
Another flash of light was seen on the hillside and a short time later the brush fire was seen starting up.
Crews monitored the fire on the mountain until the fire department’s helicopter arrived at daybreak to make water drops on areas that were still flaming or smoldering.
A hazardous materials crew and Wailuku firefighters used All-Terrain Vehicles to get to the fire at about the 1,500 foot level. The fire scorched about 5 acres on the mountain and was called extinguished at around noon Tuesday.
Based on eyewitness accounts, both fires are believed to be accidental and were caused by an electrical arc along the power transmission line. The falling sparks set the brush on fire, according to FSC Taomoto.
Honoapiʻilani Highway was closed briefly between Kūihelani Highway and North Kīhei Road because of a power line down on the far right Lahaina bound lane.
Fourteen personnel from two engines, a water tanker, the hazardous materials crew, a battalion chief, and Air 1 responded to the brush fire.