POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 10, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 2:01 a.m. HST, Jun 10, 2010
State forestry workers were battling yesterday to prevent a brush fire from entering habitats for endangered species in the West Maui Mountains.
The fire, about 75 percent contained as of noon, has burned an estimated 5,800 acres and at one point halted traffic and prompted the evacuation of residents along Maalaea Bay Place and several workers at a wind farm.
"When I looked out the window, it looked like the whole world was orange," said Dr. Gregory Berlin, a Maalaea resident.
Berlin said several residents evacuated their homes Tuesday, but he chose to stay since his house is made mainly of concrete and tin.
He said a fire two years ago burned most of the trees on the rise by his home.
"It didn't have anything else to burn," he said.
Some 22 state forestry workers were at the 3,000-foot elevation level, focusing efforts on containing the fire from spreading into the endangered-species area, including facilities for rearing and releasing nene birds, said Glenn Shishido, a state forestry supervisor.
"So far, so good," he said. "We've made good progress today and are watching for any flare-ups."
The brush fire has burned one or two electric poles and knocked out one of three power transmission lines serving West Maui, said Maui Electric spokeswoman Kaui Awai-Dickson.
She said electrical service was continuing into the West Maui area.
The blaze caused minimal damage to Kaheawa Wind Farm, burning some business signs and some endangered plants near the wind turbines, according to the venture.
The smoke was so thick that aerial reconnaissance crews had difficulty assessing the full extent of the fire until yesterday morning.
As visibility improved, the estimate of the burned area was increased by 3,500 acres.
Some 40 Maui County firefighters, along with a couple of private helicopter companies, were battling portions of the blaze.
Traffic between Central and West Maui resumed on Honoapiilani Highway yesterday after being stall Tuesday and forcing close to a dozen residents to find overnight shelter at county gyms operated by the Red Cross.
Gusts of 40 mph contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.