Leeward Oahu brush fires almost contained, but still burning - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

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Leeward Oahu brush fires almost contained, but still burning

The mountains of Waianae are charred after large fires. (Image: HNN) The mountains of Waianae are charred after large fires. (Image: HNN)
View of the fire from Moeha Street. (Image: Tessa Luna) View of the fire from Moeha Street. (Image: Tessa Luna)
The glow of the fire in Waianae Valley as seen Monday morning from Leihoku St. (Image: Hawaii News Now) The glow of the fire in Waianae Valley as seen Monday morning from Leihoku St. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Adam Peoples) (Image: Adam Peoples)
Honolulu firefighters are still battling blazes in Makaha Valley and Waianae Valley. (Image: Hawaii News Now) Honolulu firefighters are still battling blazes in Makaha Valley and Waianae Valley. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
MAKAHA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Honolulu firefighters are still working to extinguish raging wildfires on Oahu's Leeward Coast.

As of Wednesday afternoon, fire officials said the Waianae fire was about 95 percent contained and the Makaha Valley fire remained at about 80 percent containment.

So far, the two major fires have burned a combined total of 8,800 acres since they began Saturday. 

On Monday, the fires pushed back the start of the school year for some west side students, forcing the Department of Education to close Leihoku Elementary in Waianae and Makaha Elementary. 

Both schools were reopened on Tuesday.

Also on Monday, the flames got dangerously close to the campuses and homes, about 15 feet from the fence that separates the hillside from the buildings.

"I opened the door and that's all I seen was flames coming out so I got scared," said Waianae resident Hoku Keliinoi. "They had to shoot down our house as well as the other homes in the area."

Black Hawk Helicopters from the 25th Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade joined the fray on Sunday evening and are assisting HFD with the fires.

A contract helicopter from the U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii will also be conducting water drops in the Makua Keaau Forest Reserve.

One family in the Waianae area says they've lost their home and livelihood in the unrelenting flames. Another man shared heartbreaking images depicting stark changes to his backyard.

The Makaha fire began around 10 a.m. Saturday. HFD said at one point, 79 firefighters from 27 units were dispatched to the blaze, initiating a "fire attack to prevent further fire spread."

Tad Allies, of Makaha Valley, said smoke in the area was greatly affecting visibility.

"You could see the fire line, but you couldn’t see how far back it (was). It’s been windy here all day," Allies added. "We’re up on the roof watching the fire, and as we’re watching that one, all of a sudden off on the right to the other side of the little mountain, boom, I’ve got another small fire that pops up really quick.”

The second fire in Waianae Valley was reported just before noon Saturday.

Some 35 firefighters responded initially and more joined them as the flames spread. This fire spread towards the neighborhood, damaging the five structures and prompting some evacuations. 

Resident Kimo Opiana said he left his home voluntarily as smoke in his neighborhood got thicker.

"You look at the smoke, it's really, really unbearable and I couldn't breathe so I had to get out of here," he said. [Click here for a full slideshow.]

During overnight hours, officials said HFD's main focus was on dousing hotspots near homes instead of in the mountains.

The situation continues to unfold as HFD remains on scene.

This story will be updated with new details when they become available.

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