Endangered birds spared from Kawainui Marsh wildfire

Source: Marcia M Rufo from HNN Facebook page
Source: Marcia M Rufo from HNN Facebook page
Source: Mark Caterinacci
Source: Mark Caterinacci

KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the second time in two days, fire crews battled a wildfire in the Kailua area, this time at Kawainui Marsh.

The blaze was reported at about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday and spread clouds of thick smoke over the marsh. Even though it is a wetland, the flames grew rapidly, "Even though you think, hey, it's a marsh, it's got a lot of water," said Honolulu Fire Capt. Terry Seelig. "But there's vegetation on top, and when it burns, it produces a lot of smoke. The heat's enough to radiate and keep on extending itself."

The HFD helicopter did water drops while fire crews on the ground were on the levee that crosses the marsh -- a levee that also acted as a fire break.

"Fortunately the firefighters caught it when it got to the levee wall," said Dave Smith of the state Forestry and Wildlife Division. "If it jumped over the levee wall and got into the marsh, that's 600 acres of marshland that could burn."

Kawainui Marsh is also a habitat for endangered wildlife, including the Hawaiian stilt and the Hawaiian moorhen.

"There's four species of endangered water birds that inhabit the marsh, and so it's a good thing that it was hocked out quickly. If it had spread throughout the marsh, it could really affect endangered species habitat," said Smith.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the two-acre blaze by 7 p.m. It's not known yet if arson was involved in this fire, but Smith said, "I know a person that saw a couple of guys walking away from the fire right as it was starting, so we believe it was intentionally set by a couple of individuals."

Kailua Road was closed in the Honolulu-bound direction while crews worked on the blaze, which was within sight of another wildfire that started Tuesday. That blaze scorched 400 acres.

"People are in traffic here and they're yelling at us that this has got to stop," said Seelig. "They're not yelling at us, they're yelling in frustration and they're asking the same things that we're asking. Please, please, let's make this stop."


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