Massive Maui brush fire now 80-percent contained

Photo: Kayla Delos Santos

Crews are gaining the upper hand on a massive brush fire on Maui that burned roughly 4,700 acres in Maalaea.

It initially sparked Saturday, the result of a flare-up from a previous, half-acre fire that occurred earlier in the morning.

About a dozen firefighters were out Tuesday, extinguishing hot spots still smoldering near control lines on the east side of the fire, as well as in the Ukumehame area on the western flank of the fire.

Fire officials reported a few flareups throughout the day, but say they were relatively minor compared to those in the initial days of the blaze.

One occurred about a quarter-mile up the mountain on the Ukumehame side. The fire occurred in an area that had no chance of spreading and by the time the department’s Air 1 helicopter arrived, it had already burned itself out.

Crews are focusing their efforts on keeping a 50-foot cold zone around the perimeter of the fire. Officials say there are a lot of smoking logs, but they’re far enough into the burn area that they do not pose a threat.

Drivers on Honoapiilani Highway have been calling in many hot spots that can be seen smoking, glowing, or sometimes flaming, but most have been well into the blackened areas. If you see isolated logs smoking more than 100 feet in from the edge of unburned areas, don’t worry. Firefighters are expecting them to burn out on their own.

Honoapiilani Highway remains open in both directions, though traffic is slow from Maalaea to Ukumehame. Drivers should be cautious in the area as firefighters and fire trucks may be working on or near the roadway.

Crews will to continue to patrol the area for hot spots during the night.

Maui Fire Department spokesman Edward Taomoto said “we haven’t figured out whether a downed power line was the cause. We do know there was a live power line down when crews arrived, but haven’t established if that was the actual cause.”

No injuries were reported and no homes have been damaged, but the fire destroyed some construction vehicles and mobile office trailers.

The fire prompted hundreds to evacuate and stay in emergency shelters Saturday night.

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