KAHULUI – If it seemed like you heard sirens nearly non-stop this weekend – close. Maui Fire Department crews were moving at an almost frenetic pace dousing blazes, protecting lives and saving property.
Here, prepared by Capt. Edward Taomoto, Fire Services Officer, is a snapshot of brush fires or structure fires that Maui Fire Department responded to between 7:30 a.m. July 4, and 7:30 a.m. July 5:
Of the 10 fire calls, at least half were likely sparked by children and fireworks. Luckily our MFD heroes were on the spot preventing injury and loss of life and property.
What might be described as a rash of burning sensations erupted around the state on the Fourth of July. On the Big Island, O’ahu and Kaua’i – fire crews were faced with dozens of brush fires charring hundreds of acres.
On Maui, there were at least five notable blazes Saturday and at least two are being termed “suspicious.”
At 2:01 p.m Saturday, firefighters responded to a reported brush fire near Moi Place and Piilani Highway. Kihei firefighters were on scene at 2:10 p.m. and worked to contain a brush fire between Kaiola Place and Piilani Highway. Moi Place bordered the fire area to the south. There were five fire units from Kihei, Wailea and Kahului on scene mopping up a two to three-acre brush fire. Piilani Highway was briefly closed while crews battled the fire. This fire’s cause is still under investigation.
At 4:05 p.m. Saturday, emergency dispatchers received a call for another brush fire starting up about 150 yards to the south of where crews were mopping up at the first fire. Firefighters disconnected fire hoses and drove down the street to attack the second fire, which was about 40 feet wide and around 400 feet long. There were several homes surrounding the fire so crews worked quickly to contain it about 15 minutes later.
Cause is still under investigation, but it does appear suspicious. There’s considerable distance between the two fires, so we do not think it was an ember from the first fire. The southbound lane of Piilani Highway was closed for firefighter safety while they were working on the highway shoulder.
It is unknown if fireworks played a roll in either of the fires – or any of the dozens of blazes that flared across the state.
Also on Saturday, a fire caused about $100,000 damage in Happy Valley – displacing a family who had escaped unharmed. Another fire flared up in Lahaina Saturday afternoon and a small fire was quickly doused in Pa’ia.
According to FSO Edward Taomoto, at 1:19 p.m. Friday afternoon, emergency responders were called to a leaking propane storage tank on Lower Main Street, in Wailuku. When Wailuku firefighters arrived at 1:25 p.m., a loud whistling sound was heard coming from a 1,150 gallon propane tank to the rear of Nakamura Mortuary. Lower Main Street was closed for a brief time between Waena Street and Puaala Place. Kawaipuna Place and Nakila Place, off of Lower Main, were also closed to traffic.
A hazardous materials team from Kahului was brought in to take atmospheric readings and determine if there were any flammability hazards. They concluded the area was safe to enter and there was no danger of the gas exploding. Lower Main Street was reopened 30 minutes later.
The HazMat team, along with the owner of the tank, Maui Gas Service, determined that a pressure relief valve properly opened in order to relieve mounting gas pressure most likely caused by Friday’s unusually high temperatures. However, the relief valve failed to re-close after internal pressures dropped to safe levels, so Maui Gas Service workers unloaded the remaining propane into a mobile tank truck.
When the HazMat crew left the scene at 5:47 p.m., Maui Gas Service planned on burning off the remaining flammable vapors so repairs on the stuck valve could be made.
Firefighters arrived three minutes later and found only a single fire about a quarter-acre in size, burning in a sugar cane field just Kahului side of the mini-bypass and mauka of Hana Highway. It appeared to be an unscheduled cane fire since the field did not appear to be prepped for harvest. The Paia mini-bypass was closed temporarily.
While waiting for HC&S representatives, the Paia fire crew and a Kahului water tanker were able to contain about 80 percent of the fire using large fire streams from fire trucks outside the field. Crews do not send firefighters on foot into cane fires because of unwarranted risks.
HC&S crews arrived and confirmed that it was an unscheduled fire. About four acres had been burned by the time firefighters left the scene at 9:40 p.m. and handed over responsibility to HC&S.
The fire is considered suspicious. This is the second unscheduled cane fire to occur in the same area two nights in a row. Cause of the fire could not be determined. There were no injuries and no structures threatened.
PAIA – An “unscheduled” cane burn Thursday night lit the sky near Baldwin Beach Park in Pa’ia.
According to Maui Fire Department’s Fire Services Officer Edward Taomoto, Thursday night at 7:34 p.m., firefighters were called to a possible brush fire near Baldwin Beach Park in Paia.
Firefighters arrived five minutes later and found a one acre fire burning within a sugar cane field near the old Lime Kiln, just east of Baldwin Park. Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Company employees were not in the area and it appeared to be an unscheduled cane fire.
The Paia fire crew and a Kahului water tanker kept the fire from spreading any further until HC&S representatives arrived. Once HC&S crews arrived, they confirmed that it was unscheduled. Fire crews left the scene at 9:18 p.m., when they handed over responsibility to HC&S.
Cause of the fire was undetermined. There were no injuries and no structures were threatened.
Saturday was an exceptionally busy day for first responders on Maui. Two traffic accidents resulted in four fatalities. A beach rescue in Wailea resulted in a Reading, PA, woman being rushed to the hospital. At 10:37 a.m. Saturday morning, emergency crews responded to reports of an unresponsive woman in the ocean. Upon arrival, bystanders had already pulled the woman from the water at Ulua beach, in South Maui.
When Wailea firefighters arrived at 10:42 a.m., they found bystanders performing CPR on the woman. Beachgoers noticed the woman unresponsive and floating on the surface with snorkel gear, then brought her to shore.
Paramedics rushed her to Maui Memorial Medical Center. The woman is a 76-year-old visitor from Reading, Pennsylvania. Her condition is unavailable.
Then, at 2:05 p.m. Saturday, firefighters responded to a brush fire reported near Shaw Street, in Lahaina.
Lahaina firefighters arrived at 2:14 p.m. and found about an acre of grass and brush burning on the mauka side of the Lahaina Aquatic Center. A water tanker and heavy equipment from a nearby construction company were keeping the fire from spreading.
Three crews from Lahaina and Napili and two fire department water tankers responded. The fire was called contained at 2:43 p.m. Crews had not called it extinguished late Saturday, but monitored for areas still left smoldering. Just over an acre burned. Its still unclear what caused the fire.
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