HONOLULU (KHON2) — It is day four of the Mililani Mauka brush fire and it continues to burn in a remote mountainous area. The Honolulu Fire department provided an update Thursday afternoon, saying they’re throwing as many resources at it as possible.
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HFD reported that the fire is now approximately 1,100 acres in size and is 30% contained.
The main portion of the fire is still moving east. The head of the fire was about four miles from the Mililani Mauka community but has moved a mile closer in the latest update from fire officials.
HFD and partner agencies are fighting the fire, which began on Oct. 30, using air assets.
HFD said they want to let the public know that they are battling this fire with urgency. They have seven aircraft, doing water drops. That’s two more than the previous days.
They also have put together contingency plans when trade winds start to pick up tomorrow.
Area residents are worried that the fire keeps growing.
“What concerns me the most is that I don’t see an urgency. I can’t sleep well at night. What are we waiting for?” asked Carmen Vega, a Mililani Mauka resident. “That’s the question that I ask, what are we waiting for to put this fire down? It’s not gonna be an act of nature, boom it will stop the fire without action, we have to do something.”
According to the fire department, there remains no life safety threats but they are prepared to pivot based on any weather pattern changes.
“It’s really not difficult for our air group to pivot based on changes in the fire if there were structures ever to be threatened, which there are not right now and nowhere close to being threatened, and we also have ground cruise, that can make a stand by any structures,” said HFD Captain Jaimie Song.
The State is monitoring air quality, inquiries may be routed to the Clean Air Branch at (808) 586-4200.
Those affected by the smoke are advised to shelter in place or a place with air conditioning.
There are no structures or homes threatened at this time and no evacuations are in place.
Forecasters said light winds mean the smoke from the Mililani Mauka fire is not getting dispersed by usually-windy trade winds.
The Department of Health has also begun air quality testing.
Light winds mean the smoke from the fire is mostly stagnant, dense and moves slowly. Trades are expected to slowly return on Friday, Nov. 3 and the National Weather Service said that is good news when it comes to the fumes.
“It shouldn’t be as dense, especially in the morning time,” said NWS forecaster Derek Wroe, “especially because you’re getting the wind to mix it up.”
Viewers in Kaneohe sent in video from the morning of Thursday, Nov. 2 that shows smoke pouring over the Koolau Mountains before seeming to sit above the bay due to light winds out of the southwest.
“As the day moves around and you move into the evening, I expect the wind flow to sort of switch around like this,” Wroe said as he gestured to show wind coming from the east and northeast, “so you might see this column might start clocking around and doing something like that.”
Mililani-Mauka residents said evenings can get rough.
“The breathing is hard, we were all coughing a little bit and ash is everywhere,” Aleeshia Groom said. “We’ve all just kind of been watching from our windows as much as we can and trying to watch the news as much as we can, stay updated.”
Video from Wednesday, Nov. 1 show just how smoky the conditions can get at night. The American Lung Association said anyone with asthma, COPD or respiratory issues should stay indoors in air conditioning — KHON2 asked if folks who do not have air conditioning can take any steps.
“Yes, definitely getting an air purifier is going to help filter some of that smoke out of the air in your home, but you want to make sure that air purifier that does not produce ozone because the ozone can also make the air not as clean as it can be,” American Lung Association Hawaii executive director Pedro Haro said.
The Hawaii State Department of Education said some schools are impacted by the air quality conditions. Those schools have limited outdoor activities and are holding recess indoors. Air purifiers are available for students.
The Department of Health has begun air quality testing at Mililani Ike and Mililani Uka elementary schools, with more planned at August Ahrens and Ewa elementary schools.
“At Mililani ʻIke, yeah, it has gone up to I think slightly to the orange,” DOH Clean Air Branch environmental health specialist Lisa Young said. “It’s remained green for the most part.”
Click here to view air quality index readings that update every 10 minutes from Mililani Mauka.
As for the cause of the fire, that has not been determined.
“We currently, as of yesterday, started the investigation process. HFD investigators are collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office and law enforcement,” Song added. Anyone with information that can help with the investigation is urged to contact authorities.