Fire threatens Hawai'i Kai
By Suzanne Roig
Advertiser East Honolulu Writer
HAWAI'I KAI Residents and firefighters stood shoulder to shoulder early yesterday afternoon to beat back a brushfire that threatened homes after erupting in Koko Head District Park.
A plume of smoke from the fire that started at 11:45 a.m. could be seen from as far away as Kapi'olani Boulevard. Armed with garden hoses, residents along Kekupua Street sprayed each other's roofs. One off-duty firefighter shopping at Costco jumped into the effort and helped uncoil additional hoses.
Mike Judd, on his way to go canoe paddling in Maunalua Bay, stopped to help residents spray their roofs. He went barefoot with a garden hose to douse flames in the brush that were within about 25 feet of the homes.
"I've never seen a fire this close in all the 10 years I've lived here," said resident Candy Iha. "I've offered my hoses up and we wet down a roof of an elderly couple. Most of these people are our neighbors helping each other out."
The fire was contained by 1:45 p.m. said Honolulu Fire Department Battalion Chief Thomas Perkins. Late last night, the fire was still burning on Koko Crater, but not threatening any homes. The American Red Cross set up an evacuation center at Kamiloiki Recreation Center and brought food to feed hungry firefighters and residents.
Smoke filled the air over the eastern portion of Hawai'i Kai.
"The winds have a big effect," Perkins said. "With the fires in California right now, people are more aware and want to help out. Every bit helps. The people helping are not in any danger, otherwise we'd have them evacuated.
"Our concern was the homes."
Kay Williamson, a resident of Kekupua Street for 32 years, came home from church at Koko Head Elementary School to find fire trucks blocking her street and smoke billowing up behind her home. She and her friends removed boxes of photos and important papers just in case the fire changed direction and reached her home.
"There have been fires closer than this, but it's been a long time," Williamson said. "Something like this makes you think that things are not all that important."
Deborah Booker The Honolulu Advertiser
Shawn Loncar and his father, John, stand on their roof watching a helicopter battle the blaze near their home.
Deborah Booker The Honolulu Advertiser
The Red Cross responded so quickly because the director of disaster services, Glenn Lockwood was attending church at Kaiser High School cafeteria. Church was canceled, and Lockwood marshalled his volunteers and the evacuation center.
"I live on Hawai'i Kai Drive and saw the flames and came to watch or help," Kawika McGuire said.
Around midday firefighters had moved to inside the Koko Head District Park near the former Job Corps site, leaving a smaller crew near the homes to mop up hot spots.
In October, there were three brushfires during a one-week stretch along Koko Crater, which led firefighters to suspect that all may have been intentionally set. Since this summer, firefighters have fought seven brushfires in and around Hawai'i Kai. Three of those fires were in approximately the same location in Kalama Valley near the Hawai'i Kai Golf Course, just 30 yards off Kealahou Street and on successive days, July 21-23.
One of those fires was a rekindling of an earlier blaze on about 10 acres, but firefighters noted at the time that three fires in three days was "fairly suspicious."
Firefighters did not know the cause of yesterday's fire, Perkins said.
Residents clustered in groups as firefighters fought the blaze and later moved out. Kim McNaughton was glad she had her son and daughter pack up their things just in case they had to evacuate.
"I just didn't want to have to worry about them getting their stuff together," McNaughton said. "This was pretty scary."
Reach Suzanne Roig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 395-8831.