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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 11:16 a.m., Thursday, July 25, 2002

Huge Wai'anae brush fire threatening farms

A firefighter today helps battle a brush fire in Wai'anae Valley. Fire officials are calling the blaze one of the largest in the area's history.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

A brush fire that officials are describing as among the biggest ever in Wai‘anae Valley had destroyed an estimated 1,200 acres by this morning and was still not contained.

The effects have reached beyond the valley as far as MÅkaha, said Honolulu Fire Capt. Richard Soo.

“It’s like a volcanic haze that settled over everywhere,” Soo said. “People with respiratory problems might have some discomfort.

“We would like them to seek medical attention. And, although we are not ordering an evacuation, they might like to remove themselves from the area.”

Another immediate worry this morning was the threat to a range of businesses, including floral nurseries and livestock operations, Soo said.

Fifteen HFD units, as well as federal firefighting crews and tankers and helicopters from the state forestry division and the military have been deployed in the fire, Soo said.

A total of 15 Honolulu Fire Department units were dispatched to the area of the fire, said Soo.

The blaze started at 8:21 p.m. last night near Angel's Junkyard, 85-1570 Wai'anae Valley Road; it was contained last night but later began burning along a new fire line, Soo said.

State forestry fire crews joined the fight this morning, concerned about native plants that flourish deep in the valley; however, the south-southwest bearing of the fire line doesn't appear to threaten the native forest, Soo said.

Kapua Kawelo, a biologist who works for the environmental division of U.S. Army Garrison Hawaii and cooperates with forestry officials in protecting native species, said the endangered plants include the nehe, a Hawaiian plant in the daisy family. Other plants include the uhiuhi, a native bean plant culturally significant because its wood was used to make spears, Kawelo said.