Neighbor Island briefs
Humpback whales are returning
KIHEI, Maui Multiple sightings of humpback whales in recent days have confirmed that the whales are back in Maui County waters.
The first whale sighting of the season was reported Oct. 30 near Lana'i, and several other sightings have been reported since then off Maui's south and west shores, according to the Pacific Whale Foundation.
The nonprofit organization's "Welcome Home the Whales Celebration" is kicking off with two-hour whale-watch cruises tomorrow. The cruises will depart from Lahaina Harbor at 1:45 p.m. and from Ma'alaea Harbor at 1 p.m. The cost is $19.95 for adults and $14.13 for children ages 4-12. Tickets are free for children under 4.
Humpback whales will be the focus of the foundation's Dec. 1 Family Ocean Discovery Series program for children aged 5-12 and their parents. The program will run from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at Kalama Park in Kihei. Participants are advised to wear sneakers. The cost is $8 per parent/child pair, with a $4 charge for each additional sibling.
Also Dec. 1, the group will open its free Whale Information Station at the McGregor Point lookout between Ma'alaea and Lahaina. Whale artifacts will be on display and visitors can get tips for locating whales. The station will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily during whale season.
For cruise reservations and other information, call the Pacific Whale Foundation at (808) 879-8860; from other islands or the Mainland, call (800) 942-5311.
Brush fire still burning in North Kona
KEAHOLE, Hawai'i Three dozen county and volunteer firefighters, backed by three bulldozers and two helicopters, continued battling a runaway brush fire yesterday in the foothills of North Kona.
They said the fire was contained again yesterday evening.
Forty homes in Kona Acres had been evacuated for about 2 1/2 hours Thanksgiving Day as the fire spread across 1,000 acres, but none burned. Area residents were warned yesterday of the ongoing threat of smoke and fire, and were told be ready to leave their homes if necessary.
Bruce Butts of the Hawai'i County Civil Defense Agency said all roads were open yesterday, but that smoky conditions were present on Queen Ka'ahumanu State Highway leading into Kona, and on Kaiminani Drive and Hinalani Street near Costco.
The county hired three bulldozers to help with new firebreaks and a private helicopter to assist the Hawai'i County Fire Department's Hilo-based rescue helicopter.
The fire was thought to be contained at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, but winds caused the blaze to jump the firebreak being constructed at about 3 a.m. yesterday.
The National Weather Service Big Island forecasted trade winds of 10-20 mph yesterday, shifting to southerly winds in the next two days as a Kona storm approaches, with rain expected tomorrow.
Cooking fire may have started blaze
Maui fire officials suspect vagrants who started a cooking fire may have touched off a blaze in a vacant office building Wednesday morning.
The fire did an estimated $125,000 damage to the structure and $50,000 to the contents of the Old Maui Blocks Office Building in Waikapu Quarry, fire officials said.
Fire officials arrived on the scene at 10:16 a.m. Wednesday, and brought the fire under control at 10:46, said a fire department spokesman.
The fire was extinguished at about 2:30 p.m., the spokesman said. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Clues sought in Kona robbery
Kona detectives are seeking the public's help in their investigation of a robbery that occurred Sept. 27 at a computer store in the Old Industrial Area of Kailua-Kona.
Two masked men, armed with a pistol and a crowbar, entered Island Tech Office Equipment on Kaiwi Street and demanded money.
After taking an undisclosed amount of cash, the suspects fled.
Anyone with information about the robbery or the identities of the robbers is asked to call Det. Albert Pacheco at (808) 326-4230 or Crime Stoppers at (808) 329-8181 in Kona or (808) 961-8300 in Hilo.