Hawaii evacuation: Thousands flee as brush fire rages in Maui

Aerial view of Maui coast

Smoke from the brush fire raging in central Maui, Hawaii, is seen in a video screengrab from HawaiiNewsNow, July 11, 2019.

The 1,200 hectare (3,000 acre) brush fire in the island's central valley was uncontrolled on Thursday night, Maui's mayor, Mike Victorino, told a news conference.

An evacuation notice was sent to the cellphones of residents in the town of Maalaea and in parts of Kihei, a Maui County official said.

As darkness set in, the mayor said firefighters would not bring it under control overnight. "We're in deep trouble", Victorino said.

A National Weather Service satellite photo showing smoke hanging over the island was posted online.

The fire was reported Thursday morning at 10:42 a.m. local time near the intersection of Waiko Road and Kuihelani Highway. It jumped a highway and spread across fallow fields and more brush. Two fire department helicopters dropped water on the blaze to try to contain it.

Thousands were ordered evacuated, but it was unclear how many people fled the west Maui coastal communities of Maalaea and Kihei. Three shelters housed about 500 people late on Thursday, media reports said.

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Power was out at the island's airport and flights were being diverted as the fire impacted access to it.

The County of Maui activated its Emergency Operations Center in the morning. No deaths, injuries or structure damage was immediately reported.

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.

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.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige tweeted: 'A big mahalo to Oprah for giving Maui County access to your private road for use to assist in the Maui fire'.

There were also concerns about the safety of hundreds of dogs, cats and other animals threatened by the blaze, with the the Maui Humane Society rescuing several hundred of them.

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