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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 3, 2010

Nānākuli wildfire snarls traffic

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

A wildfire above Nānākuli yesterday afternoon did not cause any property damage, but it did force the closure of one west-bound lane of Farrington Highway for more than six hours, backing up traffic for miles.

The fire burned about 4 acres of brush between Nānākuli Valley and the Kahe Power Plant. The blaze was reported at about 12:30 p.m. and was 90 percent contained by 6 p.m., said Capt. Terry Seelig, Honolulu Fire Department spokes-man.

Seelig said the fire appeared to have started near the highway and climbed several finger ridges up a steep ridgeline. Firefighters climbed the face of the mountain to battle the blaze while the HFD Air One helicopter made water drops, he said.

Windy conditions helped push the flames up the mountainside, but Seelig said no property was in danger. But he said there was the potential for the fire to jump into the populated valley, so firefighters had to aggressively fight the flames.

Because of the location of the fire, however, fire officials placed two engines in the mauka lane of the highway so water could be pumped to tankers. That meant just one lane westbound remained open, creating a rush-hour nightmare.

The lane wasn't reopened until close to 7 p.m.

Seelig said yesterday's fire demonstrated how even a small fire can have negative impacts in other areas.

"Our choice was if we didn't do that (position the engines on the highway), we weren't going to get water to the head of the fire as efficiently and quickly," Seelig said. "It would have crawled further and it may have burned longer and it might have burned into tomorrow."

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.