A Marine CH-46 helicopter dumps a load of water on a brush fire Tuesday at Camp Hansen, Okinawa.

A Marine CH-46 helicopter dumps a load of water on a brush fire Tuesday at Camp Hansen, Okinawa. (David Allen / S&S)

CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa — A brush fire that began Monday in the Central Training Area next to Camp Hansen finally was extinguished at 7:38 a.m. Wednesday after it destroyed about 370 acres, according to a Marine spokesman.

The fire started in Range 2 and spread to Range 3 in the Central Training Area. Camp Hansen Range Control discovered the blaze during routine patrols at approximately 2:50 p.m. Monday.

The fire burned about 370.65 acres, said 1st Lt. Eric Tausch, a Marine spokesman. Four Marine Corps fire trucks and two CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters from Marine Corps Air Station Futenma worked with range control personnel to extinguish the fire, which reached the eastern slope of Mount Onna. The mountain is considered sacred by Okinawans.

“The fire started when an unexploded piece of ordnance spontaneously ignited,” Tausch said in a news release. “Explosive Ordnance personnel were conducting a routine search and disposal of unexploded ordnance at the time. There was no live-fire training on the affected ranges at the time of the incident.”

Tausch described the ordnance that started the fire as a 3.5-inch Vietnam-era white phosphorous rocket.

“The cause of the spontaneous ignition is under investigation,” he said. “There were no personnel casualties or property damage as a result of the fire.”

The brush fire was the fourth in the Central Training Area this month, according to Tausch. It was the third-biggest brush fire on a U.S. military installation on Okinawa since the island was returned to Japan in 1972 after the U.S. occupation following World War II, according to an official of the Okinawa Prefectural Government Military Affairs Office.

The official said that the largest brush fire, in September 1997, destroyed 735 acres. The second-largest, in October 1988, burned 495 acres. Both fires were in the Central Training Area.

“We have yet to receive a detailed report from the Marines including how this happened,” the Japanese official said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Kin Mayor Tsuyoshi Gibu filed a protest Wednesday afternoon with the Naha Bureau of the Defense Facilities Administration, the Ministry of Foreign Affair’s Okinawa Liaison Office and the U.S. Consulate. Kin hosts Camp Hansen and part of the Central Training Area.

Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.

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