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Brush fire behind Kalaheo High closes part of H-3 in Kailua

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

POSTED: 02:12 p.m. HST, May 29, 2012

Readers can submit photos and videos of the fire by emailing cityeditors@staradvertiser.com.

Police closed a portion of the H-3 freeway and alerted some residents to prepare for possible evacuation as firefighters battled a large brush fire behind Kalaheo High School.

About 9:30 p.m., the fire was reported mostly contained on the Kailua and Kaneohe sides of the ridgeline.

H-3 was closed in both directions from the Mokapu offramp to Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay. The freeway was expected to be reopened tonight after firefighters moved their equipment.

The fire burned an estimated 350 acres, an official said. It reached the ridge above the high school and went down on the Kaneohe side of the hill, but did not threaten homes.

The fire began about 1 p.m. along the hillside above the Kalaheo Hillside neighborhood behind Kalaheo High School.

Flames got to within 25 yards of some homes, said Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department spokesman.

The fire was pushed up the flank of the hill, and away from homes, by winds gusting as strong as 25 mph.

"Our immediate goal is to keep the fire from getting close to any of the homes," Seelig said. "The fortunate thing is the wind is blowing it the other way. However, there is some back-burning which is radiating heat causing brush to slowly burn against the wind. That's not too much of a challenge but it is a concern."

Some residents were spraying water on their roofs and yards to fight off embers.

About eight ground companies, two tanker trucks and a fire helicopter ate fighting the blaze and the department's other helicopter was dispatched, Seelig said. 

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