Controlled burn leads to out of control brush fire - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Controlled burn leads to out of control brush fire

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It was supposed to be a test burn but somehow the Army lost control of the blaze, which wound up torching 200 acres in Wahiawa.

Hundreds of motorist were turned back on Kamehameha Highway near the Helemano Military Reservation today as the flames approached the roadside.

"It was very hazardous for drivers so that necessitated -- for the safety of our firefighters and the public -- to close down Kamehameha Highway," said Honolulu Fire Department Captain Terry Seelig.

"Two hundred acres is what we estimate was burned. Two hundred acres of smoldering spots that have to be ... attended to prevent flare ups through the night."

The highway was shutdown for several hours, snarling traffic for miles.

About 80 Honolulu and federal firefighters were sent to the scene and two helicopters were used to make water drops.

Fire officials said high winds and tall grasses helped fuel the flames.

"The wind was a fairly strong wind that picked up later in the morning and probably was a major factor in causing the fire to burn out of control," Seelig said.

The fire was largely under control by 7 p.m. and that's when the highway was reopened.

The Army said its still investigating the cause of the fire.

Here's a summary of the events:

[Update 7:10 p.m.]

Wahiawa/Waiawa fire: All roads now open.

[Update 5:10 p.m.]

U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii has released a statement regarding today's brushfire near Helemano: 

This was a test burn coordinated between Colorado State University contracted by the U.S. Army, the landowner Dole Food Company, and U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii's Wildland Fire Program.  The purpose of the test plots was to observe fire behavior of Guinea grass.  This information assists the Army with future prevention and control of Guinea grass fires on its training areas.  This data also provides foundational information useful to other fire fighters, planners and responders throughout Hawaii.

The plan was to burn four separate test plots, 50X75 meters, located in a fallow agricultural field owned by the Dole Food Company, between Helemano Military Reservation and Kamehameha Highway. 

Changing weather conditions took the fire out of prescription.  U.S. Army assets, Honolulu Fire Department and the Federal Fire Department responded to the incident.  The incident is under investigation. 

The Honolulu Fire Department says at least 200 acres have burned. 

[Update 4:45 p.m.]

HPD: Kamehameha Highway is closed in both direction between Paalaa Uka,  Pupukea Road and  J. Leong Hwy. (HMR) Paalaa Uka,  Pupukea Road to Kamehameha Highway is open.

[Update 3:15 p.m.]

Southbound Haleiwa to Wahiawa closed. Northbound to Wahiawa closed. Northbound Kamehameha Highway to Paalaa Uka (HMR) is open. 

[Update 3:04 p.m.]

HPD: Kam Hwy to HMR gate now open-both directions

[Original story posted below]

Honolulu police say Kamehameha Highway is closed in both directions between Kamananui Road in Wahiawa and Weed Junction Waialua due to a brush fire.

Honolulu Fire Department says a controlled burn got out of control in Helemano area by Whitmore Village.

Paalaa Uka Rd. (Military Access) is also closed.

No structures are threatened at this time; however smoke was making an impact on Kamehameha Highway.

Traffic is backed up in the area.


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