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All roads along Kamehameha Highway reopened

By Star Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 7:29 p.m. HST, Sep 19, 2013

All roads that were closed due to a "test burn" brushfire in the Helemano area are now open.

Honolulu and federal firefighters battled a "test burn" brushfire today that got out of control after it was started by the Army and a contractor to determine ways of preventing grass fires on Army training areas, officials said.

The fire did not pose any danger to people or homes but wreaked havoc with traffic in the area this afternoon.

At least 200 acres of grass and brush burned in a fire that appeared to have started alongside Paalaa Uka Road, the main access road to Helemano Military Reservation, said Honolulu Fire Department Capt. Terry Seelig.

Kamehameha Highway from Paalaa Uka Road (also known as Pupukea Road), at the entrance to Helemano Military Reservation, south toward Wahiawa, was reopened shortly after 3 p.m. The North Shore end of Kamehameha from Paalaa Uka Road to Joseph P. Leong Highway in Haleiwa reopened at around 7:05 p.m.

Kayla Overton, a spokesperson for U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii, said in an email that the fire started as a "test burn" coordinated by Colorado State University under a contract with the Army; the landowner, Dole Food Co.; and U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii's Wildland Fire Program.

The plan was to burn four separate test plots, each 164 feet by 246 feet, in a fallow agricultural field owned by the Dole, between Helemano Military Reservation and Kamehameha Highway, Overton said.  

"The purpose of the test plots was to observe fire behavior of Guinea grass. This information assists the Army with future prevention and control of Guinea grass fires on its training areas," she said. "This data also provides foundational information useful to other fire fighters, planners and responders throughout Hawaii."

Changing weather conditions "took the fire out of prescription," the Army said. Seelig said it appeared that high winds caused the fire to burn out of control.

U.S. Army assets, the Honolulu Fire Department and the Federal Fire Department responded to the fire. The Army said the incident is under investigation.

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