Kealia fire put out

A brush fire that burned through a square mile (about 640 acres) in mauka Kealia Saturday was extinguished after about seven hours by fire personnel with assistance from two helicopters, fire personnel said Monday.

The fire spread about 3/4 miles north of Spalding Monument on the Anahola side of Kealia Road, near an old airstrip.

“We believe it is extinguished, because of the heavy rain, but there’s no way we could check way in, it’s inaccessible,” Mitchell Ikeda, Kaua‘i Fire Department battalion chief said.

The fire was burning in three different spots, and heavy black smoke could be seen coming from cars, rubbish and debris in the area, said Interisland Helicopters general manager Dennis Imamura.

Kapa‘a Fire Department personnel responded at about 1 p.m. Saturday, and the fire was extinguished about 8:30 p.m., Ikeda said. Two MDHI500 helicopters from Interisland Helicopters were dispatched to do water drops using water from a nearby reservoir. They spent about 5 1/2 hours in the air fighting the fire, Imamura said.

KPD crews made checks of the area Sunday.

Ikeda said though the fire was not spontaneous in nature, the department will still probably not investigate the incident. Fire inspector David Bukoski said that such a fire could have many causes.

“Negligence is the number one cause of fire,” Bukoski said.

Bukoski said that brush fires are commonly caused by fireworks or improperly extinguished campfires or cooking fires. Brush fires can also start spontaneously through buildup of heat or light magnification. Other causes could be lightning, ignition from a cigarette butt, fuel or vehicle exhaust.

“While we were there, there were some (dirtbike and ATV) riders, but we don’t know who started it,” Ikeda said.

Ikeda said though Kaua‘i has been dry this summer, most of the brush fires prior to the Kealia fire have been small ones.

Problems in extinguishing the fire were “a lot of brush, a lot of fuel, and the wind, inaccessibility,” Ikeda said. He acknowledged that in responding to the scene, fire crews did encounter several locked gates. They accessed the site from Kealia Road.

There was some contention over the land manager, believed to be the state of Hawai‘i, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, or Kealia Kai. Jeff Rivera, manager of what’s called “Kauai Ranch,” said the fire did take out a small area of their property past the fence line, but damage was not great because grass in the area was mowed. He said that the fire passed Kealia Road and into land managed by the state Department of Hawaiian Homelands.

Greg Kingsley, Kealia Kai owner Thomas McCloskey’s Kaua‘i representative, said that no Kauai Ranch property has abandoned vehicles on it.

Ken Toguchi, DHHL public information specialist, said their office was not notified, and land involved in the fire was not managed by DHHL. The DHHL, who took control of some Amfac cane lands in Dec. 2002, plans to organize cleanups and dumping prevention, said Roland Licona, Kaua‘i district supervisor. Tommy Oi, state land division land agent, confirmed the area in question is privately owned.

Preventing brush fires

  • Burning rubbish is allowed from 9 a.m.n6 p.m. on no-burn days only. The limit is 25 pounds per household per day.
  • Call radio stations or fire department for no-burn days.
  • Keep a garden hose or ample supply of water handy and watch fires at all times.
  • Fires must be at least 25 feet away from structures.
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