Brush fire battled from air and ground

PUHI – In the third brush fire in last than a week, a fire yesterday blackened seven acres of grass in a valley located south of the Kaumuali’i Highway and the Puhi Bypass Road.

The fire, reported at 10:44 a.m., started after sparks from a plantation harvesting operation on the mountain side of the highway floated to the ocean side of the highway, according to Kaua’i Fire Department battalion chief Jay Peters.

Peters said wind estimated at 20 miles per hour carried the sparks to the valley and ignited the grass.

Firefighters left the scene at 7:30 last night after the fire was contained, he said. Eight firefighters from Lihu’e were expected to return to the scene at 7 a.m. today to put out smoldering fire spots Sixteen firefighters from Lihu’e, Kalaheo, Koloa and Kapa’a, plus a private Air-1 helicopter and a military helicopter from the Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility were deployed to fight the fire, said Peters, who coordinated firefighting efforts.

Using large buckets for six hours, the helicopters picked up water from the Kipu reservoir and poured water over the fire, Peters said.

Two Lihu’e Plantation bulldozers also were used to create firebreaks in the valley. In addition, water tankers from Lihu’e Plantation and the county Public Works Department were used, Peters said.

The fire posed no threat to buildings, and there were no injuries reported.

Firefighters yesterday also extinguished burning logs from a Sunday fire that charred 100 acres near Kaumuali’i Highway about one mile west of Halfway Bridge.

Three firefighters involved in that operation were then sent to fight the fire by the Kipu Bypass Road, Peters said.

The latest brush fire was the third in less than a week on Kaua’i. Last Thursday, a four-acre fire nearly reached Kaua’i High School before it was stopped following a five-hour battle.

Fire department representatives said persistent dry weather has increased the risk of brush fires this summer.

Staff writer Lester Chang can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) and lchang@pulitzer.net

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