Massive Brushfire Consumes Ranch Pasture Land
Molokai firefighters battled a raging brushfire well into the evening on Monday. The large fire started on Molokai Ranch property on the North facing slope of Maunaloa on June 4. Two helicopters from the Maui County Fire Dept. flew over from Maui and assisted the firefighting by dumping thousands of gallons of water over the fire.
The fire started in the morning, before the mile 13 marker on Maunaloa Highway. By 4 p.m. the fire already had spread over an estimated several hundred acres. Police closed highway access to Kaluakoi. They also told bystanders trying to get a glimpse of the large fire to move back, as the fire dangerously advanced toward the road.
Several firefighters and at least five fire trucks were seen trying to contain the fire throughout the afternoon. The bulk of the blaze raged over a mile from the road keeping firefighters busy driving up and down the highway trying to figure out the best way to fight the fire. The strong winds didn’t help, quickly spreading the fire further west.
By noon the fire had already burned dozens of acres, although the burning fields were far from the highway.
Despite a large cloud of smoke, a tourist couple from the mainland stopped their rental car and casually asked if there was “something on fire.” After realizing there was a brush fire in progress, the lady said “it must be dry.”
Some local residents pulled up in a camouflage-painted truck and were curious to know if there were any animals running from the fire.
Hawaiian Telcom worker Carla Brede kept a close watch on the fire, concerned that it might burn some of the telephone polls within Ranch land. Looking at the choppers which came from Maui, apparently displeased, she asked “that’s all Maui sent over?”
But even with only two choppers, the firefighters seemed to be making headway containing the fire – by 2:30 p.m. it appeared that the fire could be extinguished. However, the wind kept blowing relentlessly. And though the east side of the fire seemed to be contained, the west front continued spreading at a fast pace.
Initially the choppers brought water from the middle of the island. But as the fire approached the Kaluakoi Road, they switched strategies by taking water from an improvised roadside pool. As the fire continued to travel west, the choppers began filling their buckets from ocean instead.
Big Island resident Carl Taniyama said the brush fire dampened his annual hunting trip. He comes every year to Molokai with friends from the Big Island and Alaska to hunt axis deer on Molokai Ranch property. Taniyama was hopeful he could still go hunting the next day, but he was unsure if the fire would be contained.
Meanwhile, firefighters and police kept working relentlessly to keep the fire away from the road, and the people away from the fire. At this time there are no reports of injuries or structure damage.
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