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Hot exhaust blamed in Maui brush fire that destroyed SUV

  • COURTESY MAUI FIRE DEPARTMENT

    This vehicle was destroyed in a brush fire Friday in West Maui. Firefighters said the catalytic converter under the vehicle can reach 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and likely ignited the grass beneath.

  • COURTESY MAUI FIRE DEPARTMENT

    A brush fire destroyed this vehicle Friday in West Maui. Firefighters said the fire was likely started by the SUV’s hot exhaust system coming into contact with grass.

An SUV was destroyed Friday in a West Maui brush fire that likely was ignited by the SUV’s hot exhaust system coming into contact with grass, Maui firefighters said.

Edward Taomoto, Maui Fire Department spokesman, said a 46-year-old woman reported she was driving her SUV through tall grass when the fire started at about 9 a.m. Friday in the hills above Kapalua Airport.

The woman said she had stopped briefly before noticing flames coming from beneath her SUV. She escaped without injury, but flames engulfed her vehicle.

Responding firefighters found a half-acre brush fire on the mauka side of the Mahinahina Water Treatment Facility, about 1 1/2 miles mauka of the airport, Taomoto said.

Firefighters brought the flames under control at about 9:50 a.m. and extinguished the blaze by 11 a.m. Taomoto said the fire was determined to be accidental.

Taomoto said the catalytic converter, on the underside of the vehicle, can reach temperatures of 500 to 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and can easily ignite dry grass.

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