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Maili brushfire has residents questioning state land upkeep

  • COURTESY CRYSTTAL STEINER

    Smoke and flames rise from a brushfire in Maili today.

  • COURTESY CRYSTTAL STEINER

    Firefighters direct water on hot spots in an area scorched by a brushfire in Maili today.

A brush fire in uncultivated land managed by Department of Hawaiian Home Lands caused some to question whether the department was properly maintaining the land after the fire came withinseveral dozen feet of homes today in Maili.

The fire started about 11:50 a.m. in a field adjacent to Mokila Street in the Sea Country community.

Honolulu Fire Department Capt. James Todd said four engine companies and two tankers brought the 10-acre fire under control in about an hour. No homes were damaged and firefighters remained at the scene for hours, mopping up hot spots. The cause was undetermined.

John Koa, a Mokila Street resident, said the fire started about 100 feet from the road, possibly from children in the area moments before. He said the wind was pushing the head of the fire towardthe ocean, away from the homes, but the back of the fire still moved slowly toward the homes.

At one point, the fire was about 30 feet from a home at the end of the street.

The home’s residents were away, so Koa and his neighbors used four water hoses to douse the area until firefighters came and extinguished that portion of the fire.

Hawaii state Rep. Andria Tupola (R, Kalaleloa-Ko Olina-Maili) visited the area Sunday and expressed concern that the overgrown field may be a fire hazard for nearby residents. She said it wasimportant for DHHL to survey their property to make sure overgrown brush and other hazards are mitigated.

The fire burned in a roughly 90-acre plot, which was the former Voice of America transmitter site. The land was transferred to the Coast Guard in the 1970s and most of it was transferred to thestate about seven years ago to build a homeless transitional shelter.

About five acres was set aside because of contamination from toxic chemicals left behind when the Coast Guard demolished a building in the late 1980s, according to land exchange documents.

Tupola, who hosted an informational briefing about the Coast Guard’s cleanup efforts earlier this month, said the Coast Guard will be seeking a contractor this summer to do the remediationwork.

The contaminated area was fenced off in the field, opposite of the fire.

Clayton Beaver, 48, who lives on Mokila Street, said he wasn’t worried about the fire because he had cleared the area behind his home of brush, but said the community association and DHHL should come to an agreement to allow residents to enter the property, making it easier for them to make improvements.

Crysttal Stein, after moving into her Mokila Street home about 10 months ago, worried that the brush was a fire hazard and had the slope behind her house cleared as a precaution.

“They need to keep the grass down,” she said. “To have it like this is really dangerous.”

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