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Molokai Brush Fire Grows To 7,800 Acres

Firefighters from Maui County and the state spend a third day fighting a growing brush fire on Molokai.
/ Source: KHNL-TV

The brush fire near Kaunakakai has grown to about 7,800 acres on Monday, Maui County officials said.

Images: Molokai Brush Fire

While firefighters will not say they have the fire under control, they appeared to gain an upper hand in the afternoon.

"We made headway. Right now, we are doing operations so we can cut off the west and north flanks of the fire. Conditions are favorable," fire Capt. Travis Tancayo said.

The fire moved away from the town and no longer threatened homes and businesses. The wind was a constant factor.

"A little windy now if it slows down we would be a lot happier," Tancayo said.

If the wind picks up firefighters feared the blaze will cross firebreaks and spread out of control.

More than 40 county firefighters with support from the state forestry firefighters and volunteers are fighting the brush fire.

"We are trying to do a lot of operations while its in the daytime. Once it gets to evening conditions change and its real dangerous for the personnel," said Gene Iinuma, of Maui Civil Defense.

Four helicopters are making aerial water drops, officials said. The choppers used Cooke Memorial Swimming Pool as a water source.

“Our crews are doing an outstanding job and we truly appreciate the great support from the people and businesses of Molokai,” Fire Chief Jeff Murray said. “So many have come forward to offer whatever help they can provide including dropping off food for our firefighters and support personnel. We want them to know that we’re grateful for their generosity and can’t thank them enough."

Around Kaunakakai the fire loomed on everyone's mind.

"It's the worst one I've ever seen," Richard Sawter said.

"This is like the 100-year flood. Every so many years we have a fire like this," Lloyd Inouye said.

"It's ugly, dangerous and doesn't smell so good," Lan Paleka said.

The Department Of Education closed four schools on Molokai Monday because of the brush fire north of Kaunakakai, a DOE spokeswoman said.

Closed Schools:

Molokai High

Molokai Middle

Kaunakakai Elementary

Kualapuu Elementary Public Charter School

The Molokai fire crept near to about 100 homes in Kaunakakai Town Saturday night and on Sunday.

The fire started Saturday afternoon.

The fire moved west while crews fight the blaze, officials said. Teams used bulldozers to dig firebreaks.

The fire claimed an abandoned structure near Kalamaula as firefighters fought to save the home next to the abandoned building. Firefighters saved the residence from damage.

Authorities closed a portion of Maunaloa Highway while fire crews and equipment traveled through the area to keep the fire from advancing.

On Sunday, Maui County called for voluntary evacuations as the wind direction changed and the fire slowly moved toward a residential area.

So far, the only injury has been a firefighter who was treated for smoke inhalation on Saturday, officials said.

The cause of the fire is unknown.

KITV sent a crew to Molokai. They will provide updates on the evening newscasts.

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