Firefighters battling flare-ups on third day of Molokai wildfires

Denny Kaneshiro
Denny Kaneshiro
Brenda Kaneshiro
Brenda Kaneshiro
Michelle Favinger
Michelle Favinger

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

MOLOKAI (KHNL) - The huge effort to contain a brush fire burning on the island of Molokai continued on Monday.

More than 70 county and state firefighters are battling the flames. As of Monday night, authorities said the fire charred an estimated 7800 acres of land on the Friendly Isle.

Five helicopters, seven bulldozers, and five water tankers are being used to fight the fire.

The Red Cross closed an emergency shelter it opened on Sunday at the Mitchell Pauole Community Center.

The Department of Education announced that three of the four schools closed Monday by the fire will be open Tuesday.

The remaining school, Kualapuu Elementary Public Charter School, will decide Tuesday morning if it will reopen.

In the afternoon, the Department of Land and Natural Resources announced it's closing the Molokai Forest Reserve to the public until further notice.

Hovering over Molokai is a threat that continues to smolder in Kaunakakai.

Using Cooke Memorial Pool to dip their baskets and Kaunakakai Ball Park to refuel, helicopters spent day three dousing hot spots leftover from the brushfire that raged over the weekend.

In Kapaakea, beehives from a family-owned honey business called Molokai Meli burned to ashes.

"All that metal right there, that's where they all were, there were 33 of them," said Elijah Kaneshiro, the owner's son.

Surviving bees were clinging to each other.

"The hives were destroyed so they have no place to go and they're huddling all together," said Denny Kaneshiro, co-owner of Molokai Meli.

But the family says that on the night of the inferno, their attention wasn't on saving their business.

"We were just beating the edges with wet towels and sheets to try and keep it from getting to the houses that are just right over that ridge," said Brenda Kaneshiro, co-owner of Molokai Meli.

Fortunately, flames spared homes.

The only report of property damage was in Kamililoa. Early Sunday morning, the brushfire completely destroyed a carport. The family that lives there says flames were as high as the top of a kiawe tree, about 50 to 60 feet high.

The fire was just inches away from destroying the home next to the carport. Luckily, firefighters arrived in time to save it.

"I think I'm still crying. It's sort of like moments when - we're so thankful we're alive, we didn't lose our house," said Michelle Favinger, one of the residents at the home.

In Kalama Ula Mauka where police ordered mandatory evacuations on Sunday, residents were back at home. Their scorched backyards show how dangerously close the brushfire came. And Civil Defense says the threat isn't over.

"We haven't hit the very dry season yet," said Gen Iinuma of Maui County Civil Defense.

Authorities urge residents in affected areas to clear any debris or brush that's prone to catching on fire.

Civil Defense says firefighters will be tackling flare-ups for at least a few more days, and monitoring the parched acres for several weeks.

Iinuma says that's how long it'll likely take before the community is completely in the clear because much of the burnt brush was kiawe, which has root systems that tend to burn or stay hot for a long time.