*This story has since been UPDATED on 7/3/16 and can be found by CLICKING HERE.
At 12:33 p.m., on Saturday July 2, 2016, firefighters responded to a report of a flare up from a brush fire that occurred mauka of the Kuihelani Highway and Honoapiilani Highway intersections early Saturday morning.
Wailuku firefighters arrived at 12:43 p.m. and found a 40 x 40 foot fire near where a fire occurred earlier Saturday morning at 1:24 a.m. That fire was believed to have started from an electric power line that was laying on the ground in the burn area. Crews had to wait until the lines were de-energized before going to work on the fire. About a half an acre burned and was called extinguished at 3:35 a.m.
Firefighters had trouble accessing a locked gate to get to the fire and by the time they got there, trade winds of at least 40 mph got hold of it and it just took off. There was no way firefighters could catch it. The fire raced downwind and upslope towards the West Maui mountains within minutes.
A group of hikers called in to emergency dispatchers saying they were on the Lahaina Pali Trail above the fire. Two helicopters searched for and eventually rescued 6 hikers from the mountain at around 2:00 p.m. No one was injured. More hikers were on the Lahaina side of the trail and made it down the Lahaina side mountain on their own.
The brush fire is estimated to have burned around 6000 acres so far from the Kuihelani Highway and Honoapiilani Highway intersections, towards the south and up over the mountains towards Papalaua Wayside Park.
Evacuations were ordered for the Maalaea Shops area, including the Maui Ocean Center, and about a dozen homes on Maalaea Bay Place, to the south of the Harbor.
No homes were reported to have been damaged but several on Maalaea Bay Place were threatened. Fire crews were in place protecting those structures. Fire crews from Lahaina are standing by at a subdivision in Ukumehame, on the other side of the mountain. They are monitoring the fire that’s still burning near the top of the mountain and waiting for its decent on the Lahaina side.
The fire has burned most of the area from Maalaea Harbor to the Lahaina side of the Pali. The Honoapiilani Highway has been closed again for a flare up at 8:30 p.m. There’s no word on how long it will remain closed.
The fire has not been contained, as the active fire is burning in areas inaccessible to vehicles. Updates will follow as the fire conditions change.
Civil Defense has opened up two shelters for people displaced by the brush fire. They are at War Memorial Gym in Wailuku and Lahaina Civic Center in West Maui. The shelters were opened at 6 pm.
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