KOKEE — The sun cast a shade, shrouded by thick smoke and clouds on the Westside of the island Sunday as families enjoyed their Father’s Day along Kekaha Beach, while a large brush fire in Kokee that broke out sometime Sunday morning crept down Poki Ridge and Paua Ridge alongside Kokee Road, eventually becoming visible to nearby residents on Kekaha Road.
According to Beth Tokioka, Kauai Island Utility Cooperative spokesperson, electricity was denergized to the power lines going to Kokee State Park as a precautionary measure, leaving residents and tourists alike without power Sunday evening. The power lines to Kokee will be deactivated until further notice.
An estimated 80 campers were advised to evacuate near the state park, according to emergency scanner reports.
Kokee Road was closed Sunday afternoon and Waimea Canyon Drive closed at 6 p.m. while firefighters remained at the scene. An outpost was setup in the parking lot of papaya fruit stand just north of Kekaha Road.
As of Sunday at press time, no structures had been damaged by the blaze, or injuries reported.
Firefighters from the Waimea, Hanapepe, Kalaheo and Lihue fire stations responded to the scene along with the on-duty Battalion Chief Jason Ornellas.
Personnel from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources Forestry Division aided in the efforts alongside local crews with several water tankers and heavy equipment provided by private companies.
Two Airborne Aviation helicopters and Air 1 filled Waimea Canyon with the sound of their propellers nearly all of Sunday afternoon, making routine water drops on the fire throughout the course of the day and into the evening.
The three helicopters were forced to refuel several times during the course of the day after depleting their fuel source combating the blazes where fire units could not access due to inaccessible terrain.
The approximate size of the fire is still unknown, according to a County of Kauai press release.
“In 2012 it started on that ridge over there,” Brian Howell said shortly after photographing the fire Sunday evening near the staging area. “They’ll get it, it’s going,” he said.
Kokee Road and Waimea Canyon Drive remained closed through Sunday and the general public is advised to avoid the area until fire crews have successfully extinguished the fire and the roads officially reopen.
Many fire personnel spent the night on scene of the blaze as people in Kokee were given the option to evacuate Sunday evening.
The cause of the fire remains unknown as initial investigations are still pending and crews continued to battle the blaze into Sunday evening.
Ryan Collins, county reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.