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Molokai brush fires cut phone service to Molokai, Lanai

Leila Fujimori

Hawaiian Telcom sent technicians and equipment to Molokai Tuesday evening to repair a telephone cable damaged by brush fires Tuesday afternoon.

The damage prevented many phone customers on Molokai and Lanai from placing or receiving calls outside their island, Hawaiian Telcom spokeswoman Ann Nishida Fry said.

About 3,000 Molokai and 1,000 Lanai customers lost phone service, and some high-speed Internet service was also disrupted.

The fire also prevented people from making 911 emergency calls for 40 minutes on Molokai and two hours on Lanai, Nishida Fry said.

Officials said two brush fires began near one another off Maunaloa Highway. The first was reported at 1:34 p.m. at Mile Marker 3, and burned 5,000 square feet. The second began shortly after about a quarter-mile north of the first fire and burned 15 to 20 acres.

The fire department received reports of utility poles on fire, said Maui County Fire Services Chief Lee Mainaga, resulting in the 911 and other phone service going down.

Mainaga said five fire companies and 14 firefighters responded to the fires.

A fire helicopter was dispatched from Maui and performed water drops.

The county public works also sent out two tankers and a bulldozer to assist. A private contractor and the state Highways Division also sent out one water tanker each.

The fires were contained about 3:30 p.m.

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