Firefighters returned to Angel’s Towing and Used Auto Parts on Waianae Valley Road this morning after stopping a large brush fire from reaching the business Thursday night.
Black smoke and flames rose from the business as firefighters battled the fire that flared up at about 9 a.m.
Fire Department spokesman Capt. David Jenkins said strong winds apparently blew embers from the brush fire into an area where junked cars are stored, setting sevearl vehicles on fire.
About 38 Honolulu firefighters and federal firefighters fought the blaze.
Loud popping sounds from the fire woke up Waianae resident Sonny Beebe.
“It sounded like fireworks,” said Beebe.
Overnight, using hand tools and hoses, Honolulu firefighters stood their ground and stopped the brush fire before it reached homes on Piliuka Place.
Firefighters positioned units along Piliuka Place to safeguard homes and agricultural structures threatened by the approaching fire front after the fire broke out at about 7:12 p.m. Thursday night, Fire Department spokesman Capt. David Jenkins said in an email. “As the fire front approached the residential properties, firefighters engaged the flames. … At approximately 1:30 a.m. the fire front near the Piliuka Place homes was contained,” he said.
Jenkins said the fire is 50 percent contained mostly at lower elevations, but was burning out of control in mostly inaccessible areas of the mountain and valley.
Helicopters are dropping water on the flames.
Fresh crews replaced firefighters exhausted from going up and down the hillside overnight to battle the raging flames.More than a dozen firefighters were at the Waianae Boat Harbor cleaning their equipment and resting on a low rock wall at about 6 a.m.
“Those guys are extremely exhausted,” said Jenkins said.
The weather forecast for the Waianae area calls for more strong winds today, blowing from the northeast at 15 to 25 mph. No significant rain is in the forecast.
Despite the winds, thick smoke hung over much of Waianae.
The smoke prompted the charter Kamaile Academy in Waianae to close today. Students who were dropped off early were staying in the air-conditioned library until their parents could pick them up.
The winds blew both makai and mauka, making it difficult for firefighters to contain the flames.
The Honolulu Fire Department set up two divisions, one for makai and another for mauka fronts of the fire.
Many residents felt threatened by the fire and self-evacuated.
Firefighters arriving at 7:20 p.m. found a 30-acre brush fire near the Cultural Learning Center at Kaala on the eastern or Lualualei side of Waianae Valley, that quickly spread and intensified as the night wore on, burning along the top of the mountain that separates Waianae and Makaha.
Eighteen fire companies and 50 firefighters fought the fire in difficult terrain, trying to protect homes with limited water supplies delivered by tanker trucks.
Angel’s Towing and Diamond D Ranch were in the vicinity of the fire.
Ac’Lynne Uesugi drove up with her daughter to check on her 69-year-old mother who lives near the ranch and Angel’s.
Her mother texted her, “The flames are bigger now and the sky is lit up.”
Uesugi said her mother was wetting down her acre property to protect it.
But Department of Emergency Management officials would not allow Uesugi and her daughter to walk or drive along the road that leads to the property.
Uesugi noted a “ring of fire,” with some flames getting closer to Mt. Kaala, where a friend of hers lives. That friend told her not to worry about him, but her mother’s house was closer to the fire.
Her daughter, Phoenix Maimita Valentine, 13, commented, “Spectacular view. Something worth witnessing.”
The ranch has horses, goats and cows, Uesugi said.
But Angel’s Towing was closer to the blaze, according to one Waianae resident who was visiting friends in the area.
Randy Mariani, 31, said Angel’s has a lot of vehicles, and there is a lot of gasoline spilled on the soil there.
At about 11:45 p.m., the Fire Department moved some of their operations makai to protect homes in the area of Piliuka Place.
Earlier in the evening, Arthur Gualdarama, 20, whose family lives near Angel’s, said he thought someone’s house was on fire. “I seen the mountain on fire. It amazed me.”
He and a buddy drove up to get close to the fire when it was smaller.
“I hope everybody and their families are safe,” Gualdarama said.
“It was coming so fast,” said Lauden McLean, 18. “The wind took the flame and lit everything up.”
Star-Advertiser reporters Craig Gima and Nanea Kalani contributed to this story.