More than 3,000 acres scorched in Hawaii Island fire

More than 3,000 acres scorched in Hawaii Island fire

BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawai'i Fire Department crews are still battling a massive brush fire that has already scorched more than 3,000 acres in the Kawaihae area of Hawai'i Island.

Officials say the brush fire began around noon Saturday and is still not fully contained. However, as of Wednesday morning, the fire is about 95 percent contained.

Ground crews spent Monday monitoring several fire breaks and putting out hot spots, as two helicopters continued water drops over the area.

"We had a very fast moving fire with light flashy fuels -- the light grasses -- that were involved. The fire moved rapidly through the first several hundred acres," said Hawaii Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Joe Farias.

At one point two neighborhoods were threatened -- Kawaihae Village and Mauna Kea Beach Resort. Evacuations were ordered, but have since been lifted.

Officials say a few structures were damaged, but no one was injured and no homes have been lost.

"That was one of our main concerns. We were up there right away [Kawaihae Village] and literally having your back to the building and a walk of fire coming at you -- you could hear everybody's smoke alarms going off in their house and the thought of everything that they own being consumed in minutes, you know it was just drastic measures to save as much as you could," described Noah Hester, a volunteer firefighter with 14alpha company.

Shifting winds, steep terrain and dry, quick burning brush have posed serious challenges.

"Through the wind, the speed of the fire,the intensity of the fire and just the chaos of the smoke -- you couldn't see anything. It was crazy," explained Ryder Millar, a volunteer firefighter with 8alpha company.

Crews were posted overnight at the lumber yard across the street from Pu'ukohola Heiau, where an estimated 7,000 tons of Eucalyptus timber burned. Nearly three days after the fire was sparked, piles of logs were still smoldering.

At the peak of the fire activity Saturday night, 84 personnel from four different units were working the scene. Along with the Hawaii Fire Department -- the Department of Forestry & Wildlife, the Pohakuloa Fire Department, volunteer fire units and personnel from Parker Ranch all helped respond to the brush fire.

Winds shift so dramatically in the Kawaihae area, officials say they'll be monitoring the area closely to ensure there will be no flare ups or hot spots throughout Monday evening.

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