Hawaii Fire Evacuees Permitted to Go Home

Nearly 5,000 people ordered to flee their homes because of a huge brush fire on Hawaii's Big Island (search) were allowed to return Wednesday, officials said.

However, the fire remained out of control after charring more than 25,000 acres along the Kohala Coast (search) on the west side of the island.

Hawaii County (search) fire officials said no injuries or damage to buildings were reported, but a condominium complex remained threatened. The fire did not threaten hotels in Waikoloa Resort, about six miles away.

The evacuation order had affected 75 percent of the town's 6,500 residents, Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency acting administrator Lanny Nakano said. Officials turned a community center and elementary school into evacuation centers, a resort opened its ballroom to evacuees and another school offered dorm rooms.

Linda Harlow told The Honolulu Advertiser that she had little warning.

"We back up to a natural area and it was burning right outside our home," she said. "People were trying to grab what they could. We had like five minutes."

The only road connecting the village to the rest of the island was closed Tuesday and parents were told to pick up their children from school because buses weren't allowed through the area. Schools outside the town were told to keep students from Waikoloa until it was safe for them to return.

The blaze started Monday as a small brush fire, Battalion Chief Curtis Matsui said.

On the mainland, officials in Washington state said residents of about 75 homes who had evacuated Monday when a wildfire closed in were allowed to return home Wednesday.

However, the returnees and residents of 70 other homes were under notice that they might have to evacuate again in the area near Lake Wenatchee in central Washington. The blaze had charred nearly 1,000 acres and was only 20 percent contained.

Large fires also were active Wednesday in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Texas and Utah, the National Interagency Fire Center reported. So far this year, wildfires have charred 4.7 million acres, compared with 5.5 million at the same time last year, the center said.