Firefighters continue to battle stubborn Maui brush fire

Shelters opened for residents displaced by Kahikinui brush fire
Image courtesy: Maui Fire Department
Image courtesy: Maui Fire Department

KAHIKINUI, MAUI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Firefighters continue to battle a massive brush fire on Maui, and investigators now say it appears to have been intentionally set.

Meanwhile, crews flew the perimeter with a GPS on Wednesday and learned it isn't as large as it was initially thought. Officials say about 5,300 acres have burned along the southern slopes of Haleakala. That's about 200 acres fewer than what was reported on Tuesday.

On Monday, the blaze got very close to roads before they were shut down.

Kihei resident Chris Blizard and his friends were heading back from Hana when the flames got very close to their car.

"We were all very nervous, you could just feel the adrenaline pumping, we were basically second guessing ourselves," he said. "It got within like five feet from us. You could actually feel the heat coming through the car and the smoke was just unbearable."

Blizard said the close-call is still tough to look back on.

"We were pretty just in shock like, what did we just endure? Maybe we shouldn't have done that. But there were other cars going through it. We're just glad that looks like everyone made it out."

Fire officials say both mauka and makai sides of Piilani Highway are charred for more than four miles.

In some areas, the fire has burned all the way to the ocean below the highway, to about the 3,500 foot level on the mauka side of Piilani Highway.

"The area is pretty much a combination of dirt and lava rocks, a lot of hills and gullies that the bulldozers have to push through. And there are no roads, so they're creating new roads around the fire," said Fire Services Chief Edward Taomoto.

Ten people in the nearby Kahikinui Homesteads voluntarily evacuated.

Maka'io English gathered his belongings from his home on Tuesday.

"We definitely saw flames of 40 to 50 feet high, about five miles east of my direct house," he said.

"It was a scary feeling knowing my daughter, she was telling her dad to hurry up and grab our stuff, 'Dad it's right there, it's close by.' So we spent about 15 minutes gathering most of the important belongings that we had."

A shelter has been set up for those who have evacuated at Keokea Park in Kula.

The Maui Fire Department is discouraging anyone who does not live in the Kahikinui Homesteads from entering the area. No injuries have been reported.

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