Fire sparks massive response

HANAMA’ULU — Dry conditions contributed to a 200-acre fire northeast of Lihu’e Tuesday that required the response of members of emergency crews from across the island, as well as aircraft support.

Not long after noon on Tuesday, flames started to crawl across an over-grown canefield from Hanama’ulu Bay northwest towards Kapule Highway. It didn’t take long for the blaze to engulf the entire field bordered by the bay to the south, Kapule Highway to the west, and the Kaua’i Channel to the east, before its northward progress was stopped near the Kapule and Kuhio highways intersection.

According to Kaua’i Fire Chief Robert “Bob” Westerman, the brush fire ignited makai of the Kapule Highway bridge above Hanama’ulu Beach Park.

Some 23 county firefighters from seven fire stations battled the blaze, along with a chopper from the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility.

“We had one of our H3 helicopters respond to the scene in response to the request from Kaua’i Fire Department around 2:30 p.m., and make approximately 25 bucket runs in support of the fire,” PMRF spokesman Tom Clements said.

Kaua’i Police Department officers closed Kapule Highway shortly after 12:30 p.m. from Ahukini Road to Kuhio for a period of several hours, snarling traffic and causing backups well into Lihu’e to the south, and north to Wailua.

Though no buildings or lives were threatened by the fire, employees of the Kauai Fruit & Flower Co. were evacuated for a brief period after the fire broke out, according to Westerman.

Mop-up operations continued well into the evening, to ensure that no new flare-ups occurred after the initial blaze was knocked down. At 5:25 p.m. KFD Battalion Chief Shawn Hosaka said they were still fighting hot spots of the fire.

According to KFD officials, the fire was completely extinguished by 6 p.m.

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