Big Island brush fire doubles in size overnight
  • Friday, February 15, 2019
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Big Island brush fire doubles in size overnight

  • COURTESY HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK

    Firefighters battle the brush fire on Monday evening at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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The brush fire that originated at Keauhou Ranch on Hawaii island Sunday morning doubled to 1,495 acres overnight, according to National Park Service officials.

Exacerbated by dry, windy conditions, the fire is now mostly within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, and had consumed 1,250 acres of native forest on both sides of Mauna Loa Road by Tuesday morning. The blaze remains uncontained and is now less than a half-mile from the Kipuka Ki Special Ecological Area, which is home to threatened and endangered native plants and animals.

The fire — at the 4,500- to 4,800-foot elevation mark — is moving west towards Kapapala Ranch. No homes or structures are currently threatened, and it poses no threat to the Volcano community at this time.

“Our priority now is the safety of our firefighters and the public,” said NPS fire management officer Matt Desimone in a news release. “The severity of the fuel conditions, the fire behavior and extremely limited personnel and resources make this a complex fire situation. We will continue to focus on collaborating with other government and private agencies. Kipuka Ki is our priority resource risk.”

Due to the high winds and very dry conditions on Mauna Loa, NPS, state Division of Forestry & Wildlife and Hawaii County firefighters have had limited success suppressing the blaze using what’s called a “direct attack” by spraying water and making fire breaks.

Today, the crews will utilize an “indirect attack,” using natural lava barriers as a fire break. Three fire engines, two helicopters for aerial water drops, and a bulldozer will be deployed. Two additional fire crews with a total of 30 personnel are arriving from the U.S. mainland to help the 20 fighting the fire.

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