It was a busy Friday for firefighters across Oahu as they battled two brush fires.
The first was out in Waianae, where 2,000 acres have burned so far. While the lower area of the fire has been contained, flames continue to burn the upper slopes of the ridge. Fire officials say the area is inaccessible by foot, so a helicopter will return to the area Saturday.
The second was a flareup from a fire that started Monday out in Kalaeloa. Crews say flames were getting close to Campbell Industrial Park. It burned three acres before crews left for the night.
The fire in Waianae started at around at 7:12 p.m. Thursday deep in the valley. It spread to the mountains and a forest preserve, forcing state fire crews to join in on the efforts.
HFD personnel continued operations Friday with 10 companies, an Air 1 helicopter and 21 firefighters on the scene.
The fire caused nearly 500 cars at nearby company Angel’s 24-Hour Towing & Used Auto Parts off Waianae Valley Road to burst into flames. Crews worked to ensure the vehicles didn’t reignite.
Owner Charles Joseph says the cars are a complete loss with damages estimated at over $100,000. “There’s no sense being disappointed, because you can’t erase things,” he said.
Public charter school Kamaile Academy remained closed Friday due to smoke from the fire.
Valley residents say the air quality has been rough lately because of the brush fire. Gabriel Edardo says his wife “is on oxygen 24/7. I shut all my windows. It gets bad, and I put her in an air-conditioned room my daughter has.”
We stopped by Waianae Coast Comprehensive Health Center and learned a few people have come in for smoke inhalation problems. We were also told area residents have the most asthma problems on the island because of the drier climate.
With the fire spreading mauka into the Waianae-Kai Forest Reserve, crews with the DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife joined operations Friday, deploying 12 firefighters and 3 brush trucks with 300-gallon tank and pump units to the areas. Two contract helicopters are also making water drops with the Air 1 helicopter.
The lower areas of the forest reserve are steep and vegetation consists of dense dry guinea grass, haole koa and non-native species.
As of mid-day Saturday, the fire has burned a thousand acres in the reserve.
Rain and light winds Friday night and Saturday is aiding efforts to keep the fire from further damaging the watershed.
Beforehand, fire officials said they dealt with two challenging factors: strong winds and lack of water.
“We do know that the fire started at the Cultural Learning Center (of Kaala). It on the Makaha side of Waianae Valley Road,” said Capt. David Jenkins of the Honolulu Fire Department.
Some residents in the area chose to evacuate Thursday night, though the flames remained a good distance away.
“It’s a big fire, but the wind is blowing towards mauka, towards the Koolau, so not too bad. It’s not blowing towards the house,” said Waianae resident Joe Alameda. “As I got here, they weren’t letting nobody in, no matter what.”
The last major fire to burn in the upper valley area was in June 2012 when 1,200 acres burned, including 400 acres of forest reserve lands.