Another blaze is burning in Wahiawa Hawaii: No word yet on how it started

Wahiawa brush fire

Important Takeaways:

  • Firefighters continue to battle brush fire in Wahiawa; just 50% contained
  • Firefighters are continuing to battle a two-alarm brush fire in Wahiawa that’s just 50% contained, HFD told Hawaii News Now Thursday morning.
  • Officials say the fire is approximately 450 acres in size.
  • The Honolulu Fire Department said the 911 call came in around 4 p.m. Tuesday near Hiwi Place. This is in the area near the Kukaniloko Birth Stones — though it’s unclear how close the flames are to the cultural site.
  • HFD says no homes have been threatened at this time, and no area evacuations have been made.
  • Officials added that Lake Wilson is nearby and provides a natural barrier to homes
  • So far, no word yet on what caused the fire. HFD says operations are ongoing.

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Fog likely to figure prominently in probe of Kobe Bryant’s fatal helicopter crash

By Steve Gorman

CALABASAS, Calif. (Reuters) – Weather conditions appear likely to come under the scrutiny of investigators probing the helicopter crash that killed former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, his daughter and seven others near Los Angeles on Sunday, when overcast skies and fog grounded other aircraft.

A Sikorsky S-76 chopper owned by Bryant slammed into a steep hillside outside the town of Calabasas, California, about 40 miles (65 km) northwest of downtown Los Angeles, igniting a brush fire and spreading debris over a quarter-acre (1,000 square meters) of grassy terrain.

Hours later, Los Angeles County authorities said all nine people aboard the helicopter died in the crash.

The deaths of Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, were confirmed by the National Basketball Association, as expressions of disbelief and grief poured in from fans, fellow athletes and politicians.

Bryant and his entourage were reported by local media to have been on their way to a sports academy in the nearby city of Thousand Oaks, where he was to have coached his daughter’s basketball team in a youth tournament.

Investigators from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board began arriving in the area on Sunday to launch separate crash investigations.

Among the factors expected to be at the forefront of the probe are weather conditions, given that forecasters reported low clouds and limited visibility in the vicinity at the time of the crash, and various eyewitnesses recounted thick fog over the foothills where the helicopter went down.

Fog in the area was so bad Sunday morning that both the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department grounded their helicopter fleets, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing officials.

“The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” a Los Angeles police spokesman Josh Rubenstein told the Times.

The sheriff’s department also grounded helicopters on Sunday morning, “basically because of the weather,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said, according to the Times.

The one-time star forward was known since his playing days to travel frequently by helicopter to avoid the Los Angeles area’s notorious traffic.

Bryant rocketed to fame as an 18-year-old rookie and played 20 years for the Los Angeles Lakers – 18 of them as an all-star – winning five NBA championships. He was the fourth-highest scorer in league history, with 33,643 career points.

Others aboard the ill-fated helicopter, in addition to the pilot, included a teammate from Bryant’s daughter’s basketball team Alyssa Altobelli, and the girl’s parents John and Keri Altobelli.

John Altobelli was just about to start his 28th season as baseball coach at Orange Coast College, having won his fourth state championship just last year, the college said in a news release on his death.

The same statement identified Keri and Alyssa Altobelli as victims of the crash.

The Altobellis are survived by two of Alyssa’s siblings, J.J. and Lexi, the college said.

Also killed on board was Christina Mauser, an assistant girls basketball coach at a private school in Orange County, Mayor Katrina Foley of Costa Mesa, California, said on Twitter.

Mauser was the wife of Matt Mauser, singer of the rock and party band Tijuana Dogs, who mourned his wife with a statement on Facebook.

“My kids and I are devastated. We lost our beautiful wife and mom today in a helicopter crash. Please respect our privacy. Thank you for all the well wishes they mean so much,” Mauser wrote.

Sarah Chester and her middle-school-aged daughter Payton were on also on board, according to a Facebook post by elementary school principal Todd Schmidt.

Several Southern California media outlets identified the pilot as Ara Zobayan, citing friends.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Calabasas, California; Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

Brush fire prompts evacuation of Los Angeles observatory

Firefighters work on a fire near the landmark Griffith Observatory in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, California, U.S. July 10, 2018. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The landmark Griffith Observatory, a popular tourist attraction in the hills overlooking Los Angeles, was evacuated on Tuesday due to a brush fire that scorched a nearby swath of the surrounding park, authorities said.

The blaze erupted shortly after 2 p.m. (2100 GMT) and charred 10 acres of drought-parched chaparral and grass on the slopes of Griffith Park at the edge of the observatory grounds before firefighters brought the flames under control about 90 minutes later, fire officials said.

No injuries were reported from the fire, which followed a weekend heat wave that baked Los Angeles and much of the rest of Southern California, causing widespread power outages and contributing to a destructive wildfire in Santa Barbara County.

Smoke rises from a brush fire near the Giffith Observatory in Los Angeles, United States, in this still image taken from a July 10, 2018 video footage by Elizabeth West obtained from social media. Elizabeth West/Social Media/via REUTERS

Smoke rises from a brush fire near the Giffith Observatory in Los Angeles, United States, in this still image taken from a July 10, 2018 video footage by Elizabeth West obtained from social media. Elizabeth West/Social Media/via REUTERS

The fire in Griffith Park burned to within a quarter-mile of the observatory but never posed a direct threat to the building, which is situated on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood, according to city fire department spokesman Brian Humphrey.

Authorities, however, decided to evacuate the site “out of an abundance of caution,” Humphrey said. A pall of smoke from the blaze was visible throughout much of the surrounding metropolitan area.

About 600 to 700 visitors and staff were in the building at the time of the evacuation, observatory museum guide Juan Gutierrez told Reuters by telephone.

Gutierrez said he saw flames burning “pretty close” to outdoor restrooms located near the parking lot outside the main observatory entrance and along a road leading up to the site.

It was the third time the observatory was evacuated in the past two months because of a fire, Gutierrez said, adding that he overheard one park ranger say to another that the latest blaze appeared to have been ignited by a careless smoker.

Humphrey said the cause of the fire was under investigation.

The observatory, dedicated to astronomy for public viewing and education rather than research, was opened in 1935 and draws about 1.5 million visitors a year to Griffith Park, one of the largest municipal parks in the United States.

Providing a real-life backdrop for various Hollywood movies ranging from “Rebel Without a Cause” to “La La Land,” Griffith Park was the scene of a 1933 wildfire that killed 29 people, ranking as the single deadliest blaze on record in California.

The 4,300-acre park and observatory are both named for Griffith J. Griffith, an investor and developer who donated much of the land to the city of Los Angeles in the late 1890s before he was tried, convicted and sent to prison for shooting his wife in the eye. Left blind and disfigured, she divorced him.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien and Leslie Adler)