Fire sparked during RIMPAC exercises consumes 2,000 acres

KAILUA-KONA — A large brush fire near Pohakuloa Training Area was apparently sparked late Wednesday by U.S. Marine Corps helicopters participating in RIMPAC exercises, military officials said Thursday.

Flares released by the UH-1Y and AH-1Z helicopters apparently ignited grass within an environmentally protected area in the vicinity of mile marker 44, said Lt. Cmdr. Julie Holland with the RIMPAC Combined Information Bureau Media Cell. After the fire started, a PTA helicopter was immediately dispatched to help douse flames.

Though initial reports from Hawaii County Civil Defense indicated multiple brush fires in the area, there was just one fire burning as Thursday evening, Holland said. Some 2,000 acres had been consumed. No details on containment or control were available.

Holland said PTA Commander Lt. Col. Loreto V. Borce Jr. has asked the military to provide support for the firefighting efforts with two heavy-lift rotary-wing aircraft outfitted with a water bucket. An unmanned aerial vehicle is also being used to monitor hot spots.

No injuries were reported and an evacuation was not ordered. Training in the immediate area was halted, however, “training on other ranges in PTA have returned to normal operations,” Holland said.

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