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Brush fire flares up near Camp Hansen firing range

Date Posted: 2008-03-28

It took nearly 48 hours for a brush fire that broke out only 600 meters from a local community near Camp Hansen to be brought under control, long enough that Kin residents say they’ll be filing an official protest against the U.S. military.
The fire erupted on a hill near Range 4 on Camp Hansen in early afternoon Monday,. The nearest homes to the blaze were in Igei, about 600 meters away. Residents said they heard an explosion while “playing a baseball game on our school ground when black ash began falling on our heads.” Kin Town officials say the fire was the fourth this year, with each beginning after an explosion was heard.
The military used helicopters to douse the fire, extinguishing it on Thursday morning. Military officials haven’t announced the size of the fire, but local residents say it was about 80 hectares on the mountainside that burned. Residents say the soot and ashes blanketed the community, along with a strong burning odor. Self Defense Ministry Okinawa Branch Office first said the fire was near Range 3, a fact residents immediately rejected. They speculated American troops had been conducting Range 4 exercises, including demolition training, that led to the fire’s start.
Tsuyoshi Gibu, the Kin Town Mayor, said he would fire an official protest with the Naha Defense Bureau on Friday. The military has told town officials the fire was caused by scheduled maintenance activity.

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