Fire prompts evacuations

KAPA‘A — A brushfire yesterday, possibly started by loitering Kapa‘a High School students, burned two to three acres on the Eastside.

The blaze required nearly a dozen firefighters to respond from Kapa‘a and Lihu‘e with five vehicles, and caused an evacuation of the lower half of the school as well as the nearby Hale Hauoli center, home to the Arc of Kaua‘i.

A police officer on the scene said parents waiting to pick up their children from the school between 1:35 p.m. and 1:45 p.m. called when they saw black smoke makai of the back of the building.

County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said 11 firefighters and rescue specialists in Engine 2, Truck 2, Brush Truck 2, Engine 3 and Rescue 3 responded to the 2:03 p.m. alarm, with Air-1 helicopter waiting on standby but not needed.

No one was injured and no structures were damaged, Daubert said.

The officer said the fire started near an abandoned slaughterhouse in the brush behind the school that also serves as a popular hangout for students ditching class. He said smoking and other activities are not uncommon at the unsupervised location, but said an investigation had not yet begun.

In addition to two engines and two rescue vehicles, a green truck on loan from the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife was on scene.

An official with DOFAW said yesterday the vehicle, permanently housed with and used by the Kaua‘i Fire Department, has a water capacity of roughly 400 gallons and the capability to get into remote off-road brush areas.

The nearby Kapa‘a Elementary School had already been dismissed for the day when emergency responders arrived, the officer said, and officials worked to clear the area of unnecessary vehicles. Kapa‘a High School had already begun dismissing students, but the process was accelerated with cooperation between the Kaua‘i Police Department and the school’s principal, the officer said.

Hale Hauoli is home to Arc, a national grassroots organization of and for people with intellectual and related developmental disabilities. Executive Director Ellen Ching said one full-time resident and approximately 30 individuals with developmental disabilities, as well as staff, were evacuated.

Ching said she wanted to give a “shout out” to “KFD, they did a fabulous job, county employees at the Kaua‘i Bus that helped us evacuate everyone quickly and safely, (Department of Education) employees that helped us find safe harbor for people in wheelchairs.”

Ching said the DOE opened up classrooms and allowed the displaced disabled persons to come in. She said Mahelona Hospital also provided water and bathrooms to evacuees.

“To me, that is what makes Kaua‘i so wonderful. There is no (previous) agreement, but they saw there was a need and helped,” she said.

The fire was deemed under control at 3:12 p.m. and fully extinguished at around 3:32 p.m., according to Daubert.

Arc of Kaua‘i issued an “all clear” to return notice at 4:30 p.m., Ching said.

• Michael Levine, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or via e-mail at mlevine@kauaipubco.com

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