With 8,800 acres already burned, there’s still no end in sight for two wildfires in Leeward Oahu.
On Tuesday, the Department of Education announced Leihoku and Makaha elementary schools reopened after flames got dangerously close to the schools on Monday forcing officials to cancel what was supposed to be the first day of classes.
Firefighters had their hands full putting out flames, which kept reigniting when the winds kicked in.
“We had the fire under control, but when high winds pick up, it changes the whole landscape,” said Battalion Chief Howard Naone with the Honolulu Fire Department.
By noon, the fire spread dangerously close to homes.
“It’s super close. You can see, feel the heat. My neighbor’s house is right there. We’re really close to our neighbors, just knowing that at any moment their house could get on fire,” said resident Natashia Marquez.
“The fuel load is very dry. It’s been a hot summer. We haven’t had a fire in a long time. There’s a lot of fuel load out there, so all of these things are combining,” said Naone. “Right now, everybody’s kind of relaxed. These guys were on duty on Saturday, so they’re tired, and they’re trying to not rush. Rushing leads to injuries and leads to people getting hurt and bad decisions like that, so we’re just trying to take our time.”
Fire companies from all over the island have been called in as the flames have scorched some 9,000 since Saturday. Federal firefighters are also pitching in.
“We’re taxing the total island of resources. Engines are coming from the windward side of the island. They’re coming from town. They’re coming from as far away as Kahuku to come here and fight the fire,” said Naone.
HFD has also called on the recruits help out.
“We had eight recruits that are part of the class. They had just finished firefighting. They just finished their wildland. They have some nice, new uniforms,” said Naone, “so they can jump into, get a little dirty like that, and they’re out there in the field with us.”
As of Monday evening, officials say the fire in Waianae Valley is 80 percent contained, and the Makaha Valley fire is 50 percent contained.