Maili fire burns near contaminated site

Maili fire burns near contaminated site

MAILI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A stubborn brush fire came within 35 feet of several homes in the Sea Country subdivision in Maili, prompting some neighbors to take matters into their own hands.

"I'm trying to squirt out of the garden hose and the flames are coming faster and only a little bit of water is coming out of the water hose," said Maili resident Crysttal Steiner.

Clayton Beaver, who lives next door to Steiner, said the fires came extremely close to several homes, before they were extinguished by fire crews.

"At one point the flames were 15, 20 feet up. It got big at a certain point and it spread really quickly," he said.

The blaze began about 11 a.m. and burned for about two hours, torching 10 acres.

No one was injured and there was no property damage. But it came within several hundred yards of a fenced-in area containing contaminated soil. That soil contains highly toxic PCBs, which are a suspected carcinogen. The contaminated substance came from electrical transformers that were used on the property during the Cold War-era when Voice of America operated radio transmitters on site. The property is now owned by the state Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

State Rep.  Andria Tupola, (R) Nanakuli, held community meetings on the contaminated soil earlier this month. She said the state needs to do a better job of trimming the shrubs to protect homeowners from fires.

"I think it's very important that the DHHL survey their properties ... and make sure that there's a barrier between brush that's overgrown on their property and homeowners," she said.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which used to own the property, is in charge of cleaning it up the toxic soil. We're told that work could begin later this year.

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.