By CHELSEA JENSEN
Stephens Media Hawaii
A runaway brush fire consumed 400 acres and forced the evacuation of 300 residents as it raced mauka through vacant land Saturday near the Kohanaiki Business Park in North Kona.
The fire broke out around noon in brush on the south side of Hulikoa Drive, above the Queen Kaahumanu Highway Matsuyama Food Mart, before jumping the roadway, Hawaii Fire Department officials said. It then progressed mauka and north, burning through shrub and brush land.
Hulikoa Drive was closed for several hours while fire crews worked to douse flames. Business owners could be seen spraying down their buildings and property with hoses out of precaution. The road reopened about 4 p.m.
Fueled by onshore winds, dry conditions and warm temperatures, the fire grew from an estimated 100-by-100-foot area and had consumed some 400 acres as of press time, said Hawaii Fire Department Deputy Chief Glenn Honda. The fire area stretched from Hulikoa Drive mauka toward Wainani Estates, located off Kaiminani Drive.
No structures were threatened and no injuries were reported, he said. The fire did come within 50 yards of a construction site below Kakahiaka Street.
Despite no structures officially being deemed threatened, Honda said the department around 1:15 p.m. ordered the evacuation of 300 residents from the Lokahi Ka‘u Affordable Apartments, at the end of Kakahiaka Street. Hawaii Police Department officers went door-to-door advising residents of the evacuation.
The West Hawaii Civic Center was opened shortly after the evacuations were ordered; however, Honda said few people used it. Residents were allowed to return home around 5 p.m.
Two bulldozers were working to establish perimeters on the fire’s northern side, near the Lokahi apartments, and on the fire’s southern side near Hulikoa Road as of press time. A determination of containment and control was planned to be made after the perimeter was established, Honda said.
Sixteen units, including Hawaii Fire Department and volunteer fire stations, responded. They were assisted by two Hawaii County helicopters providing water drops.
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