Molokai brushfire 50% contained - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Molokai brushfire 50% contained

Glenn Shishido Glenn Shishido

By Mari-Ela David - bio | email

MOLOKAI (KHNL) - Firefighters on Molokai are now in their fourth day of battling a raging brushfire, and have 50% of it contained.

Maui County Civil Defense says there's no threat to homes, so its focus is now on saving the Molokai Forest Reserve.

Authorities say the brushfire has charred more than 400 acres of the forest, which has been closed since Monday.

The State Division of Forestry and Wildlife says flames scorched mostly planted pines on the east side, although there are native species in the gulches that may have burned as well.

Forestry leaders say firefighters have made good progress. The fuel breaks that crews carved out have held up, but the challenge is the changing wind direction and rough terrain.

"As far as access and a lot of gulches in the area and the fires burning in the gulches, so it's difficult to get manpower up to the fire itself," said Glenn Shishido, Forest Management Supervisor with the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR).

Because manpower is restricted, firefighters are using a lot of support from helicopters. There are five of them. The choppers are no longer using Cooke Memorial Pool to dip their water baskets. Instead, they're using portable tanks that look like pumpkins, scattered out in the fields.

The landing zone where the helicopters refuel has also moved from Kaunakakai Ball Park to Onealii Park.

On Tuesday evening, Lieutenant Governor Duke Aiona and four other state leaders landed on Oahu, after taking an aerial tour in a military helicopter over the Friendly Isle.

They went up to assess the damage, and look at potential threats to public health and safety.

Among those on board were Laura Thielen, DLNR chair, Robert Hall, Executive Officer at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, Vice Director of State Civil Defense, Ed Teixeira, and Paul Conry, Administrator with the State Forestry and Wildlife Division.

Federal dollars have already been approved to help with firefighting costs. On Monday, Hawaii Senator Dan Inouye announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) gave the thumbs up for a request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant.

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