Brush fire closes Kuhio Highway

WAILUA — Firefighters continued to extinguish hot spots Friday afternoon at a Wailua brush fire that broke out around 4:20 a.m. off Kuhio Highway near Aloha Beach Resort.

Flames came within feet of the surrounding roadways, forcing officials to close Kuhio Highway and Leho Drive in both directions for roughly two hours.

The cause of the 20-acre fire hasn’t been determined, officials said, but there have already been about 70 suspicious brush fires on the island this year, many of which had multiple ignition points, leading police to believe they may have been intentionally set.

“While the cause of today’s fire is not yet known, due to the unusually high number of fires that have been occurring this year, all brush fires are considered suspicious in nature, unless the source of fire is known to be accidental — such as a recent brush fire that was ignited by a mower,” said Kauai County spokeswoman Sarah Blane.

Firefighters from the Lihue, Kapaa and Kealia stations battled the blaze until Air 1 could assist at daybreak. The fire was deemed under control at around 7 a.m. There were no injuries or damage to structures reported.

The Kauai Police Department is urging anyone with information on the cause of the fires to contact police by calling Detective Christian Jenkins at 241-1680 or Police Dispatch at 241-1711.

“This morning’s fire came dangerously close to the highway and road closures could not be avoided as public safety is always our highest priority,” stated Fire Chief Robert Westerman. “We appreciate the help of police and state DOT officials who worked diligently to open alternate means of travel until the highway could be reopened. Unfortunately, severe traffic delays could not be avoided and we appreciate the public’s patience and understanding.”

One lane of Kuhio Highway was reopened shortly after 6 a.m. At that time, police also opened the Wailua Cane Haul Access Road to southbound traffic. Wailua Cane Haul Road is an unpaved bypass road that can be opened to motorists during daylight hours only during an emergency.

Police were able to direct northbound traffic onto Leho Drive about 6:45 a.m., allowing Kuhio Highway to be dedicated to southbound motorists. The bypass road was subsequently closed.

The highway was fully reopened shortly after 8 a.m.

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