MOLOKAI FIRE BURNS 7,800 ACRES; 70 FIREFIGHTERS ON SCENE

UPDATED @ 4:00 P.M. MONDAY, AUGUST 31, 2009

More than 70 state and county firefighters are on the scene of a three day old fire on Molokai that has now burned an estimated 7,800 acres.  Crews are being assisted by 5 helicopters, 7 bulldozers, and 5 water tankers.

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Bulldozer activity remains heavy as equipment operators place fire break lines to help prevent the fire from advancing. Firefighters are dealing with flare-ups throughout the burn areas.

“Our crews are doing an outstanding job and we truly appreciate the great support from the people and businesses of Molokai,” said Fire Chief Jeff Murray. “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,” said Murray.

The Department of Education announced this morning the closure of four schools on Molokai. Kaunakakai Elementary, Molokai Middle School, Molokai High and Kualapuu School were closed because of access conditions. According to DOE Maui Complex Superintendent Lindsay Ball, the fire has no direct threat to the school campuses, but the conditions and hazards caused by the fire in nearby areas created a situation where faculty and parents were not able to access roadways leading to the school campus. To check for Tuesday’s school closure information parents can call DOE’s Maui District office at 984-8001 or the Molokai Complex office at 553-1723.

The County’s Cooke Memorial Swimming Pool will remain closed while it is being used as a water source for helicopters conducting aerial water drops. Helicopter assistance will cease at nightfall as a safety precaution and is expected to resume tomorrow at daylight.

At 1:00 p.m. today the Red Cross closed an emergency shelter it opened yesterday at the Mitchell Pauole Community Center. Aside from one firefighter who was treated for smoke inhalation on Saturday, no injuries are reported.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

(Posted by Wendy Osher, Information provided by the County of Maui.  Photos courtesy Jeff Zuckernick)

MOLOKAI FIRE NOW IN ITS 3RD DAY BURNS AN ESTIMATED 7,200 ACRES

UPDATED @ 12:30 P.M. MONDAY, AUGUST 31, 2009

County and state fire crews continue their third day of battling a brush fire on Molokai that has increased in size to 7,200 acres since it was first reported Saturday afternoon.

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

On the ground, 40-plus County firefighters are joined by 28 wildland firefighters from the State’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife. Four helicopters returned this morning to assist firefighters with aerial water drops.

The fire is burning in a westerly direction and fire crews are dealing with gulches throughout the terrain. Bulldozer activity remains heavy as equipment operators place fire break lines to help prevent the fire from advancing.

Last night, an abandoned structure near Kalamaula was completely burned as firefighters fought to save the home adjacent to the abandoned building. The home was not damaged. A pig farm near Kalamaula was also threatened by the fire but did not sustain damage and the livestock were unharmed.

The County’s Cooke Memorial Swimming Pool remains closed today while it is being used as a water source for the helicopters.

A portion of the Maunaloa Highway was closed last night as fire crews and equipment traveled through the area to keep the fire from advancing.

Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at the Mitchell Pauole Community Center yesterday to accommodate anyone displaced.

Aside from one firefighter who was treated for smoke inhalation on Saturday, no injuries are reported.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

(Posted by Wendy Osher, Information provided by the County of Maui, Photos courtesy Jeff Zuckernick)

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

Photo courtesy Jeff Zuckernick

FIREFIGHTERS FACE CHANGING WINDS AND PRE-EXISTING DRY CONDITIONS; 4 SCHOOLS CLOSED

UPDATE:  6:45 A.M. MONDAY, AUGUST 31, 2009

FIRE FORCES SCHOOL CLOSURES:  The department of Education closed four schools on Molokai today because of the ongoing fire above Kaunakakai. Closures today include Molokai High, Molokai Middle, Kaunakakai Elementary and Kualapuu Elementary Public Charter School.

DROUGHT CONDITIONS ON MOLOKAI:  The island of Molokai has been having especially dry weather in recent months.  The latest update from the National Weather Service indicates severe drought on the western third of the island and moderate drought conditions covering the eastern two-thirds of the Friendly Isle.  The reservoir in West Molokai remains low and the mandatory cutback on irrigation water use had increased from 10 to 20 percent from the previous month.  The next drought update will be issued in two weeks.

UPDATE: 9:00 P.M. SUNDAY, AUGUST 30, 2009

Photo courtesy County of Maui.

Photo courtesy County of Maui.

Photo courtesy County of Maui.

Photo courtesy County of Maui.

More than 50 firefighters from County and State agencies are on the scene of a 6,000 acre fire on Molokai tonight.  Fire personnel have been fighting shifting wind directions since the fire started.

The fire is currently moving in a westerly direction and residents of the Kalamaula area are being allowed to remain in their homes. Helicopters providing air water drops ceased operating at nightfall and are expected to return at daylight Monday morning when conditions are safe for flying.

Firefighters from Maui’s Wailuku, Makawao and Kihei fire stations were sent to Molokai this afternoon to assist crews battling a brush fire that started shortly after 12 noon on Saturday, August 29.

Homes in the Kalamaula Mauka area that were threatened late this afternoon were evacuated when the fire came dangerously close to their residences.

Since the fire began, a single home sustained damage to its garage and one firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation on Saturday.  The firefighter was reported to be in stable condition after being treated at Molokai General Hospital.

(Posted by Wendy Osher; information provided by the County of Maui)

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DROUGHT MOLOKAI

On August 6, 2009,

The island of Molokai has been having especially dry weather in recent months.  
(The National Weather Service issues drought update each month.)
 
The latest update indicates severe drought on the western third (Maunaloa, Moomomi) of the island and moderate drought conditions covering the eastern two-thirds (west of Molokai airport…Kualapuu, Kaunakakai) of the island.  The reservoir in West Molokai remains low and the mandatory cutback on irrigation water use had increased from 10 to 20 percent from the previous month.  The next update will be issued in two weeks.  
 
(ON MAUI...severe drought continues to affect the southern and central sections of the island as well as the leeward slopes of the West Maui Mountains.)  The Maui County Department of Water Supply continues to request a 5 percent reduction in water use by Upcountry residents, and a 10 percent reduction in water use by Central Maui Residents.)
 

Wildland firetrucks, capable of traversing more rugged terrain, are stationed in Napili and on Molokai and Lanai. And the Wailuku Fire Station’s minitruck “Kahakuloa” has more off-road capabilities to access some remote areas better than traditional fire engines. The brush fire season is expected to continue into September.

RESIDENTS OF KALAMAULA MAUKA EVACUATED, FIRE GROWS TO 6,000 ACRES

Kaunakakai Fire. Photo Courtesy County of Maui.

Kaunakakai Fire. Photo Courtesy Lani Gomes.

UPDATE TO KAUNAKAKAI FIRE SUNDAY 8/30/09 4:15 p.m.

RESIDENTS OF KALAMAULA MAUKA ON MOLOKAI EVACUATED

A change in wind conditions has caused the brush fire on Molokai to switch from a mauka direction to makai. In response, Maui Police ordered residents in the Kalamaula Mauka area to evacuate at around 4:15 this (Sunday, August 30, 2009) afternoon. Police officers conducted door-to-door notifications to the approximately 25 residents in the area. Red Cross will be operating an emergency shelter at the Mitchell Pauole Community Center in Kaunakakai for displaced residents.

The brush fire burned 6,000 acres by afternoon. More than 30 firefighters worked overnight to battle 17 different extensions of the fire.  Overnight, a single residence sustained damage to its garage.  Today crews were assisted by staffing from Makawao and Kihei as well as 23 wildland firefighters from the state Department of Forestry and Wildlife. The fire was first reported at around noon on Saturday. The cause is unknown at this time.

Earlier updates are posted below.

(Posted by Wendy Osher, Information provided by the County of Maui.)

SUNDAY, AUGUST 30, 2009. 2:00 pm UPDATE  TO KAUNAKAKAI FIRE

Kaunakakai Fire. Photo Courtesy County of Maui.

Kaunakakai Fire. Photo Courtesy Lani Gomes.

The brush fire that was first reported at 12:05 pm Saturday afternoon has now burned an estimated 6,000 acres and has shifted back to burning in the mauka direction. Firefighters are currently concentrating on
the eastern flank of the fire after earlier efforts by firefighters and
helicopters to curtail the western section of the fire caused some
tapering at the western flank. No other significant changes have
occurred. See story below issued earlier today for additional
information.

(Posted by Wendy Osher, Information provided by the County of Maui)

By Wendy Osher

A brush fire on Molokai had burned 5,000 acres by Sunday morning and had damaged the garage of a single home. County officials say the shifting wind had initially pushed the fire in the mauka direction, but had changed and moved toward Kaunakakai town today, coming as close as across the street from Hotel Molokai.

Kaunakakai Fire. Image courtesy County of Maui.

Kaunakakai Fire. Image courtesy Lani Gomes.

The county Department of Fire and Public Safety sent firefighters from Napili and Wailuku yesterday to assist Molokai Firefighters from Kaunakakai, Pukoo and Hoolehua. Today, additional staffing will be sent today from Makawao and Kihei as well as 23 wildland firefighters from the Department of Forestry and Wildlife.

County Communications Director Mahina Martin said one residence sustained damage to its garage, and at approximately 2:00 am voluntary evacuations were advised. The brush fire approached a residential area of approximately 100 homes as the wind direction shifted throughout the night and early morning hours. Over 30 firefighters were on scene throughout the night battling over 17 different finger extensions of the brush fire.

At sunlight, four helicopters returned to conduct water drops after ceasing at nightfall Saturday due to safety precautions. Helicopter water drops forced the closure of Cooke Memorial Pool, which is being used as water source.

Molokai residents are reminded to stay out of the fire area for their own safety and also to assure water tankers and heavy equipment can operate in the confined area. The fire was first reported shortly after noon on Saturday, August 29, 2009.

One firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation at Molokai General Hospital yesterday and remains in stable condition. No other injuries are reported.

5 bulldozers, 2 loaders, and 3 water tankers are on scene from the County’s Department of Public Works, State agencies and private companies.

Fire officials report that no homes are in immediate danger at this time. The cause of the fire is unknown.
(Updated: 10 a.m. Sunday, August 30, 2009; Information provided by the County of Maui)

UPDATE: MOLOKAI BRUSH FIRE BURNS 2,500 ACRES

A brush fire burned an estimated 2,500 acres since it was first reported shortly after noon, Saturday, August 29, 2009.  The fire was located above the town of Kaunakakai and continued to burn in the mauka direction at nightfall.

File image by Wendy Osher.

File image by Wendy Osher.

Three helicopters assisted crews from the Molokai’s Kaunakakai, Hoolehua and Pukoo fire stations. Air operations included water drops throughout the day, but ceased at nightfall for safety reasons.

Firefighters from Maui were sent to assist Molokai crews with personnel from the Napili and Wailuku fire stations leaving Maui in the afternoon via helicopter and a fire department rescue boat. Molokai firefighters belonging to a relief engine crew were also called back to duty.

One firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation and was reportedly in stable condition at the Molokai General Hospital.

Thirty-one firefighters were joined by nearly a dozen personnel from County and State support agencies as well as heavy equipment operators from Goodfellow Brothers Co. who assisted with bulldozers used to put fire break lines in place. Water tankers from County and State highway divisions were deployed to the scene.

No structures were threatened. The fire’s closest point to structures was approximately one mile.

Crews are monitoring the fire throughout the night and air support will resume at daylight.

The cause of the fire is unknown.  A county issued update is expected before noon tomorrow, Sunday, August 30, 2009.

(Posted by Wendy Osher, Information provided by the County of Maui)

MAUI CREWS ASSIST MOLOKAI FIRE FIGHTERS AT KAUNAKAKAI BRUSH FIRE

A brush fire above Kaunakakai on Molokai burned 60 acres by 3:30 Saturday afternoon, August 29, 2009. The fire was first reported at 12:05 p.m. in a town located above Kaunakakai. County officials say the fire was burning in the mauka direction.

File photo by Wendy Osher.

File photo by Wendy Osher.

Three helicopters were dispatched to the scene for water drops as well as crews from the Kaunakakai, Hoolehua and Pukoo stations.

At 2:30 p.m. a crew from the Wailuku station on Maui was sent to aid Molokai fire fighters and a crew from Maui’s Napili station was enroute to also provide additional support. County and State water tankers and heavy equipment used to build fire breaks were also on scene.

County communications director Mahina Martin said no residences were in jeopardy and no injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is unknown.

(Posted by Wendy Osher, Information provided by the County of Maui)

LINGLE CALLS HGEA OFFER UNACCEPTABLE; NON-UNION LAYOFFS MOVED FORWARD TO SEPT. 16

Governor Linda Lingle will hold an emergency meeting with her cabinet directors over the weekend to identify additional spending reductions needed to close the growing budget shortfall.  Today, Lingle said reductions will likely include additional layoffs in order to realize labor savings.

Governor Linda Lingle.  File Photo by Wendy Osher.

Governor Linda Lingle. File Photo by Wendy Osher.

The meeting comes on the heels of a reduced revenue forecast that is projected to result in an additional $98 million deficit over the biennium.

In a statement today, Lingle called the Hawaii Government Employees Association “unrealistic” in its position on the administration’s latest offer.  “We must take the difficult step of identifying additional spending cuts, including a possible further reduction in force,” said Governor Lingle.  “This is not something we want to do, but something that is necessary to meet our constitutional responsibility to balance the budget,” Lingle said.

“I continue to believe that furloughs would be preferable for both the state employees and the public.  After discussions between our negotiating team and the HGEA and providing them with what we considered to be a very fair plan, I truly believed that we were very close to reaching an agreement that would have avoided layoffs.  However, we cannot accept the response we received from the union leadership yesterday,” Lingle said.

Lingle said the State had made a similar offer to the United Public Workers (UPW) prior to the Council on Revenues meeting and received no response.

Given the size of the budget shortfall, the Governor indicated the additional reductions would be substantial and focus on a major restructuring of departments and state government, including the possible elimination of some programs and services.

Governor Lingle also announced the three-day furlough for roughly 900 non-union employees will start on September 16, 2009.

Initially Lingle had planned to furlough non-union employees in alignment with the furlough of union employees.  “Since the HGEA’s offer is not acceptable,” Lingle said the furlough of non-union employees will move forward.

(Posted by Wendy Osher, Information provided by the Office of Governor Linda Lingle.)