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Fire crews battling Pahala brushfires; some evacuations

View Mile Markers Highway 11 in a larger map

Patients from Ka‘u Hospital are sheltered at Naalehu Community Center as fire crews knock down a brushfire in the area. (Hawaii 24/7 photo special by Visionary Video)

Hawaii 24/7 Staff

Fire crews continued the battle into the night against two brushfires along Hawaii 11 in Pahala. High winds complicated the effort in the afternoon, although officials said the winds died down after sunset.

More than one dozen patients – plus staff members – at Ka‘u Hospital and students at a volleyball camp were evacuated. They are being sheltered at Naalehu Community Center.

Residents also may check in at the community center, although authorities have not issued a mandatory evacuation.

The fires, aided by high winds, spread quickly along both sides of the highway between mile markets 50 and 51. Ground crews fought the fire and three bulldozer crews cut fire breaks until night time.

Helicopters also made water drops until dark.

Earlier in the day firefighters were busy battling a brushfire between the 45 and 46 mile markers of Highway 11 as police shut down part of the roadway for fire crews.

As of 9:30 p.m. the fires were not contained and crews remained on scene overnight.

At last report, the fires had scorched approximately more than 1,000 acres, including 600 mauka of Pahala town and 500 acres makai.

The fire on the makai side of the highway started in a macadamia nut orchard and spread west, consuming 500 acres by sundown, according to a Fire Department report.

Property owner is listed as Maunaloa Macnut.

The fire on the mauka side started alongside Cane Haul Road in eucalyptus trees and grass land. It had scorched 600 acres by nightfall.

Property owner not yet determined.

The highway had been closed to traffic, but as reopened about 9 p.m.

No injuries were reported and no structures were threatened, authorities said.

The cause of the fires – reported at 2:05 p.m. and 2:46 p.m. – and whether they are related is not known.

Flames are visible near Pahala as crews fight brushfires Monday night. (Hawaii 24/7 photo special by Visionary Video)

Matt Binder, a videographer with Visionary Video headed down to the scene. He shares some of his observations:

First stop was Naalehu Community Center, where the patients from Ka‘u Hospital were evacuated. The fire came close to the hospital and the hospital has to be cleaned of ash that blew into the hospital before the patients can be moved back in, probably some time tomorrow or the next day.

There are at least two fires burning.

One mauka the highway near Pahala and one makai of the highway at Punaluu (a famous black sand beach and community.) That fire is now south of Pahala and moving south toward Punaluu.

Guy Enriques, former County Councilman and volleyball coach, was running practice for his club, Southside Volleyball Club. The team is preparing for a trip to the Junior National Volleyball Championship tournament in Dallas in two weeks.

Just after noon Monday, the smoke became so thick at Ka‘u High School Gym, some of the boys felt ill and were evacuated to Punaluu.

They were able to return to Pahala at 8 p.m. and will try to resume practice on Tuesday.

The entire area south of Pahala had dense smoke all the way to almost Ocean View.

For more information about Ka‘u Hospital patients, call 640-3731.

Tuesday (6/19/12) update on the brushfire

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