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HFD: Children with lighters caused Makakilo fire

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    Honolulu firefighters battle a brush fire above Umena St. in Makakilo.

Honolulu fire investigators confirmed that the massive brush fire that has blackened about 800 acres in upper Makakilo was accidentally started by two young boys playing with a lighter they had found.

The boys’ father, Troy Wright, issued a public statement on Saturday acknowledging his sons’ involvement, urging parents to speak with children about fire safety, and expressing the family’s concern for those whose homes were threatened by the blaze.

“We regret what has happened,” Wright said in the prepared statement, which he read to assembled media. “Our children realize the consequences of their actions. We want parents to realize this can happen to anyone and how important it is to discuss fire safety with their children.”

Honolulu Fire Department spokesman Capt. David Jenkins said the family has been “very cooperative” and that the boys will participate in a fire safety program.

The fire, first reported around 3:30 p.m. Friday, prompted the evacuation of about 20 houses on and around Umena Street as well as another 20 cabins and other structures at Camp Timberline.

The evacuation remained in effect Saturday. On Saturday, 20 fire companies and 60 firefighters continued to battle the fire as it moved up Palehua Road.

Jenkins said the heart of the fire is in an extremely rugged area that is inaccessible to firefighters.

“It’s rough terrain and very steep,” he said. “The area is hard to access. We have helicopters doing drops, but it’s going to be a long fight to deal with this fire.”

HFD personnel joined crews from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife to clear a 30-foot swath of space around the threatened homes.

Four helicopters were used throughout the day to drop water on strategic hot spots along the ridge.

Jenkins said companies will remain on site overnight to conduct a roving fire watch. 

On Sunday, an aerial survey will be conducted to reassess the situation and determine action. Jenkins said he expects fewer companies and personnel to be involved Sunday.

A temporary shelter was set up at the Makakilo Community Park for the residents, but closed at 9 a.m. Saturday. The American Red Cross has stored its equipment at the facility if shelter support will be necessary again, city officials said.

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