Monday, September 07, 2009

Fire at Waipio, Honolulu

On Saturday Valerie and I helped out with an Eagle Scout project at Alva Scott Elementary School in Aiea, then headed off to CostCo Waipio. Big mistake: a brush fire had broken out on the hillside across the highway, on the Diamond Head side of the Ko Uka Blvd exit to CostCo. As soon as we were irrevocably on the entrance ramp, we knew we had a problem: all the Ewa-bound lanes were stopped. Too late to do anything. That's the problem with highways: no escape until the next exit, and in this case, not even then.

Valerie shot this one from the car with her phone camera while we were stopped in traffic on H1. At this point we didn't know that the cops had shut down the ramps for H2 to Waipio, but did suspect as much as it was pretty much a parking lot. The orange building in the mid-ground is Home Depot, the reddish peaked roofs just beyond that are Pearl Highlands shopping center:

 
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As usual, clik on the pic for a bigger version.

The two lane H2 exit was closed with orange cones and a cop car, massively snarling traffic because one of those lanes, clogged with cars, is an exit only lane and all those vehicles had to merge with the Ewa-bound traffic. We finally escaped at Waikele. We figured that since we had spent so much time in traffic that we might as well finish the expedition. V pulled out the map book and we made our way via surface streets to CostCo. At one point we had a good view of the fire from the road, so stopped to gawk with many others.

I shot this one from the road above the highway, Ewa side, looking toward Diamond Head. One of the two helicopters on the job has just dumped a load of water picked up at a nearby reservoir. I didn't think to time the runs, but they were probably no more than three minutes, so the reservoir must have been extremely close. You can see a yellow fire truck on a dirt road as well. The light standard in the middle is on the highway.

 
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The helicopters frequently sailed over our heads, and since the water buckets have a less than perfect seal on the bottom dump mechanism we occasionally got misted as they passed. There were a couple firemen in yellow suits walking around the hillside below the firetruck, hosing areas from time to time.

Smoke would gather, blotting out our view, than wind would blow it away, fanning the flames and get things roaring again. It looked like a busy day to be a fireman or a helicopter pilot.

We eventually made it to CostCo, where for the first time in my experience there were several open gas pumps: no waiting. The store was pretty much deserted, and staff scrambled when the lights in the back of the back of the building flickered at one point. Don't know what that was about, but perhaps fire related.

While the highway entrance was blocked when we arrived, by the time we finished shopping we were able to get on, passing several cop cars parked on the dirt by the exit, cops drinking water and watching.

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