Pahala wildfires scorch hundreds of acres - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Pahala wildfires scorch hundreds of acres

Source: Kahuku Photography Source: Kahuku Photography

PAHALA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Big Island fire crews battled three wildfires burning in Pahala on Monday. The blazes have scorched 900 to 1,000 acres so far, according to fire officials.

The wind-fueled Pahala wildfires forced the closure of the rural Kau Hospital emergency room and the evacuation of 15 long-term care residents. Firefighters doused flames right across the street from the facility. The patients will spend the night at the Naalehu Community Center.

"There were fires that were burning to the south and also to the north of us. While the hospital itself wasn't in danger, the smoke was really horrendous in the facility," said Kau Hospital administrator Merilyn Harris.

Another blaze started along the side of a road. An investigator inspected the area looking for clues.

"We're looking for a point of origin and potentially any incendiary devices so that we can potentially tie that back to the person who started the fire," explained Hawaii County Fire Department fire inspector Kazuo Todd.

Earlier in the day, the howling winds toppled about six ironwood trees in Waimea. One of them crushed a pickup truck. Another just missed a home.

"It was pretty shocking to see it smash a truck and just to think that luckily no one was in it cause the cab of the truck was smashed," said Waimea resident Tania Opamin.

Also in Waimea, strong gusts brought down a utility pole on Sunday night, knocking out power to nearly 5,900 customers.

Over on Maui, a fire in Kula forced families on Hapapa Road to evacuate. Fire officials said flames burnt the roof of a house and also damaged two other homes. The wildfire charred six acres. The blaze is 60% contained and residents were allowed back into their homes. Ground crews will monitor and put out hot spots overnight.

"The challenge was for one thing the wind, the terrain was very steep, and the fuel was heavy with eucalyptus and wattle trees," said Maui Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga.

Also upcountry, the state closed the Makawao Forest Reserve because of a four-acre fire above the Kahakapao Reservoir. Due to high winds and the risk of falling trees, the Kula Forest Reserve, including Polipoli Spring State Park, is also off-limits.

Copyright 2012 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

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