Hawaii's Maui Island wildfire forces evacuations

Brush Fire in Waikō/Kūihelani Area

Brush Fire in Waikō/Kūihelani Area

A brush fire has prompted evacuations and diverted some flights on the Hawaii island of Maui, officials said Thursday. "We're not going to send any firefighters into harm's way".

First responders continued to fight the fire overnight and it remained uncontained.

The cloud of smoke from the fire is big enough to be visible from outer space, the National Weather Service says. It jumped a highway and spread across fallow fields and more brush.

A wildfire that erupted Thursday morning on the Hawaii island of Maui burned 10,000 acres and forced thousands to evacuate.

Reported at 10:42 a.m. near the intersection of Waiko Road and Kuihelani Highway, the blaze quickly jumped the Kuihelani Highway, while pushed by 15 to 20 miles per hour winds. Two helicopters from the fire department also dropped water on the blaze to try to contain it.

While thousands were ordered to evacuate, it was unclear how many people had left the west Maui coastal towns of Maalaea and Kihei.

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People forced from their homes are being advised to seek shelter at the War Memorial Gymnasium, the Kihei Community Center, or Kamalii Elementary School, with almost 500 people having done so by the early evening.

County officials in Maui said a brush fire was reported around 10:42 a.m. local time Thursday near the Kuihelani Highway.

Oprah Winfrey has a home in the county, and tweeted a local resident to confirm that she's given officials fighting the fire access to her private road. There was no reported damage to the society's Puunene shelter or any other substantive structures as of early Thursday night.

Shortly after 6 p.m. local time, Hawaii's Department of Transportation announced that Maui's airport resumed normal operations and some roads and highways, including Kuihelani Highway, were reopened. Officials and volunteers moved animals in crates and kennels to its evacuation site at Maui High School.

Hawaii Governor David Ige sent a tweet thanking the media mogul "for giving @mauicounty access to your private road for use to assist in the #Mauifire".

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