VIDEO: Saddle Road open, Mauna Kea wildfire burns

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August 25, 2010 – Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii

Video by David Corrigan

The wildfire at the U.S. Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area has now consumed an estimated 1,350 acres and remains at 55% contained, according to a Wednesday afternoon message issued by the Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Saddle Road re-opened to the public after 5:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, with detours at mile marker 29 directing traffic to the old Saddle Road and re-routing back to the new Saddle Road at mile marker 34.5 near Mauna Kea State Park. Mauna Kea State Park was closed to public access, as the fire continued to spread on the slopes of the mountain.

Offcials say firebreaks have successfully been dug on the fire’s east and west flanks. Saddle Road is providing a firebreak to the south. A total of four helicopters were fighting the fire on Wednesday. Approximately 85 firefighters battled the blaze. No structures have been burned and no injuries to firefighters have occurred.

Officials say the fire began sometime around 9:30 a.m. on Sunday about a quarter mile east of PTA’s main gate in the vicinity of Mauna Kea State Park. Officials say no Army training activity was taking place on the eastside of Saddle Road at that time.

On Monday night, Big Island police arrested a 31-year-old Papaikou man for first degree arson stemming from an investigation into the cause of the brush fire.

Police say Christopher M. Pratt (right) was located in close proximity to the fire upon firefighters’ initial arrival to combat the fire and was taken to the Hilo Medical Center for treatment. He was taken into police custody following his release from the medical center.

Pratt was held at the police cellblock overnight while detectives with the Criminal Investigation Section continued their investigation. However, he was released this morning pending further investigation.

Police ask that anyone who may have any information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Acting Lieutenant Reed Mahuna of the Criminal Investigation section at 961-2252. Those who wish to remain anonymous may call Crime Stoppers at 961-8300 in Hilo or 329-8181 in Kona. All Crime Stoppers information is kept strictly confidential.

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