Nearly 9K acres on Oahu's Leeward Coast blackened in ongoing brush fires

Nearly 9K acres on Oahu's Leeward Coast blackened in ongoing brush fires
Published: Aug. 4, 2018 at 3:35 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 7, 2018 at 5:28 PM HST
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MAKAHA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu firefighters are still working to extinguish raging wildfires on Oahu's Leeward Coast Tuesday.

As of Tuesday afternoon, fire officials said the Waianae fire was about 80 percent contained and the Makaha Valley fire remained at about 50 percent containment.

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

On Monday, the Department of Education announced Leihoku Elementary in Waianae and Makaha Elementary would be closed for the day, on what was supposed to be the first day of the new school year.

Both schools were reopened on Tuesday.

Around noon on Monday, flames threatened the campus and homes next to the school, getting as close as 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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