West Maui brush fire may have been started by homeless

Photo: Timothy Lara via MauiNow.com

Firefighters continue to battle a brush fire along Honoapiilani Highway in West Maui.

The alarm came in at 12:18 p.m. Wednesday in Ukumehame, near mile post 12 on the mauka side of the road.

An area resident reported hearing a loud explosion just before flames were seen erupting from an open field just north of Pohaku Aeko Street. Winds quickly spread the fire makai towards Honoapiilani Highway, which forced a brief shutdown of all vehicle traffic for about 30 minutes.

At around 10 p.m. Wednesday, the fire was estimated to be 60-percent contained.

A heavily wooded area of large trees near the highway made it difficult to get complete containment, officials said. Crews were seeing repeated flare-ups in this area.

A Lahaina crew maintained fire watch overnight. Officials said Thursday that the blaze scorched roughly 30 acres of dry grass and brush.

While two helicopters made water drops by air, heavy equipment from the County’s Public Works Department and West Maui Land Co. cut firebreaks around the perimeter in attempts to contain the fire. West Maui Land Co. also assisted with two water tankers at the scene.

Fire investigators were not able to determine the exact cause of the fire, but believes that it started near a group of homeless encampments discovered in the brush. One encampment was overrun by the flames and was destroyed, but two other makeshift shelters were saved by fire crews.

No homes in the Ukumehame subdivision were threatened and no injuries were reported.

Twenty-six firefighters and a battalion chief from Lahaina, Napili, Wailuku, Kahului, and Wailea responded to the fire.

(Photo provided by Timothy Lara via MauiNow.com.)

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