Witnesses recount Waimea blaze

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WAIMEA — Fire officials have determined the point of origin in a brush fire that scorched 2,200 acres of Waimea pasture last week.

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WAIMEA — Fire officials have determined the point of origin in a brush fire that scorched 2,200 acres of Waimea pasture last week.

The Hawaii Fire Department discovered wood pallets on a residential property at the 64-700 block of Paeli Alanui Street was the starting point of the July 7 blaze, Battalion Chief Darwin Okinaka said Thursday.

“It’s a manicured property,” Okinaka said. “You can see where the fire got away into the pasture.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Okinaka said the fire was contained by July 8. However, crews remained on scene the next few days to put out hot spots.

The fire initially started on Hawaiian Homestead lands in the Puukapu farm lots and quickly spread into Parker Ranch pastures.

“It was one of the windiest days – it was gusting,” said neighborhood resident Aletha “Peewee” Lindsey-Barkley. “So that fire just spread.”

Major Robert Wagner with Hawaii Police Department said the fire destroyed a house as well as a vehicle on a property near to where the fire started.

The resident living in the home that was destroyed wished to remain anonymous. She did explain what happened the morning the fire broke out.

“Thank goodness I was home,” she said. “I would’ve lost my animals.”

The resident saw the smoke at around 9 a.m. She said she drove down the property to open the gate so fire personnel could get on the property.

The woman said she went back to the house to save her animals: two cats, a dog and a bunny.

The resident said the owner of the land has 25 head of cattle and two horses. All were safely evacuated.

“It’s a complete travesty, but all the animals are still alive,” she said.

Lindsey-Barkley lost two sheep to the blaze. Two others were severely burned, three ran away and one she recaught.

Lindsey-Barkley also lives near the home where the fire was started. Flames came 15 feet away from the backside of her house.

Initial fire response was slow to Lindsey-Barkley’s property, she said, so she and her friends fought off the fire with garden hoses.

Fire personnel did arrive later to assist. Friends also used two skid steers, or tractors, to help push the fire break.

“All that’s important to me is here,” Lindsey-Barkley said of her home and land, adding she first saw the fire at around noon. As she was coming out of her driveway to leave to meet a friend, she said, she saw smoke.

She turned back toward her house and saw flames lunging toward her property. The first thing she did was get her dog and set her four horses loose to run up to a higher pasture.

Along with lost livestock, 50 of her 104 acres of pasture were burned. A water tank was also damaged along with fencing and waterlines.

Lindsey-Barkley said it would cost $50,000 to replace just the fencing.

Wayne Souza, equipment operator for State of Hawaii Department of Hawaiian Homelands, also responded to Lindsey-Barkley’s home with a tanker. He said he was there from noon till about 8 p.m.

Souza used eight loads of water to help douse the fire. Each load is 2,500 gallons.

“People gotta be more careful,” Souza said. “It’s dry out there.”

Parker Ranch also suffered losses.

Nahua Guilloz, senior manager for the ranch, said 11,000 linear feet of above-ground water line and 400 feet of linear fencing were burned.

More than 2,000 acres went up in flames.

“Loss of pasture is the most critical for us but it could have been a lot worse,” Guilloz said.

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However, Guilloz said ranch cowboys would move the cattle around to different areas so it should be fine.

“We’re hoping to get some rain to alleviate that,” she added.

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