Brush fire burns near Koko Head District Park

UPDATE 01/09/17: A brush fire that burned on Koko Head appears to have flared up again. Crews got the call just before 5 p.m. Monday and a trail of smoke could be seen along the side of the mountain. According to the Honolulu Fire Department, crews conducted water drops via Air 1 over an isolated area that amounted to less than an acre. They were done by 7 p.m.

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Firefighters had to evacuate hikers on the Koko Crater Trail as heavy smoke covered the trail from a brush fire that burned dangerously close to it.

Nine fire companies, staffed with 35 personnel, started battling the blaze a little after 12 noon. They utilized hand tools, fire hose lines and coordinated water drops to try to bring this 10-acre fire under control.

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Officials closed Koko Head District Park and the adjacent shooting range while crews battled the blaze.

During the evacuation, many of the hikers who were at the top of the trail didn’t know what was going on. Some of them told us the trail was very crowded, with about 30 or more people at the top.

A visitor from New York, Amy Hait, said “we heard sirens, but we couldn’t tell where it was coming from.”

Oahu resident Brad Godfrey said “we have been up for probably for 10 minutes at that point. As we turned to go down, we saw that there was smoke at the bottom.”

“We didn’t think it was a big deal,” said Lauren Stemetzki, also from New York, “so we just came down and started smelling it, hearing the fire, feeling the heat from the fire, and then there were firemen stationed along the steps saying ‘don’t stop, come on!'”

Photo courtesy Amy Hait
Photo courtesy Amy Hait

Hikers had to make their way down through the smoke — which was blowing in their direction.

“It was smoky, a little hard to breathe,” said Oahu resident Stacey Moore, “but it was okay. We were trying to come down fast.

“I was nervous that the fire was actually going to come right to the path right, so I was thinking that if we started coming down and the fire actually came to the path, depending on how much the wind was blowing, I guess that we could get burned,” she said with a laugh.

“I hope everybody gets down,” Hait said. “I know some families got separated at different places. I hope that happens hope they get together.”

Water drops were made to stop the blaze from creeping up to the trail. From the archery range, you could see flames scorching the mountain side. The location of the brushfire, unfortunately, centered around popular recreations.

The brush fire was considered contained at 3 p.m. and extinguished around 5:21 p.m. HFD said on Monday that they are not investigating the cause of the fire because they don’t know the point of origin, which is difficult to find in an area of 10 acres.

The trail has been reopened and the nearby shooting range will reopen on its regular business day of Wednesday.

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