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Hawaii County lifts evacuation orders as Waimea brush fire threat eases

  • COURTESY TIM RICHARDS
                                Smoke and flames from the Waimea wildfire are seen on the Big Island today.

    COURTESY TIM RICHARDS

    Smoke and flames from the Waimea wildfire are seen on the Big Island today.

UPDATE: 8:45 p.m.

Hawaii County officials have lifted the mandatory evacuation orders for Puʻu Kapu Hawaiian Homestead, Waikii Ranch, and Waikoloa Village.

County officials said there is no imminent threat to homes in the evacuated areas.

Evacuation shelters at the Old Kona Airport in Kailua Kona and Waimea District Park remain open and officials asked residents of the affected areas to only return home if “absolutely necessary.”

They warn that smoke and other conditions may make returning unsafe for those with prior and underlying respiratory conditions.

Both Highway 190 from Lalamilo Farm Road to Waikoloa Road and the Old Saddle Road remain closed, making Waikii Ranch inaccessible to residents, officials said.

They said Waikoloa is only accessible from the Queen Kaahumanu Highway portion of Waikoloa Road.

Officials also caution that Waimea and South Kohala” are still very much under threat of the ongoing brush fire, and residents are asked to remain on high alert through the evening.”

Firefighters will continue battling the brush fire overnight.

12:55 p.m.

Hawaii County officials have extended the evacuation order to Waikoloa Village after a Waimea brush fire grew to 40,000 acres, and jumped over Highway 190.

Buses will be available to transport people from the Waikoloa Village Golf Course and Waikoloa Village Elementary School to an evacuation center at the Old Kona Airport.

“This isn’t the time to panic,” said Hawaii Fire Department Chief Kazuo Todd during a brief video statement.

Waikaloa Village is home to about 2,500 people, according to the U.S. Census.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued Saturday night for residents in Pu’u Kapu Hawaiian Homesteads and Waikii Ranch.

There are about 50 fire apparatus being used to control the fire, and over 140 personnel, county officials said.

However, Todd said weather conditions are keeping firefighters from being able to extinguish the blaze.

“Due to the high wind and weather patterns that are going on through the area, the fire is continuing to break through our fire breaks,” he said.

The U.S. National Guard is also being brought in to assist.

Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth urged residents to stay out of the area if possible.

“We continue to fight. This fire actually has about four different heads moving in on it,” he said. “The air quality is not great. I’ve been up there myself looking at things, I can tell you that we have people working very hard.”

Previous coverage

A Waimea brush fire has spread to over 36,000 acres today, burning down at least one home in Pu’u Kapu.

Hawaii County officials ordered mandatory evacuations Saturday night for residents in Pu’u Kapu Hawaiian Homesteads and Waikii Ranch.

In the event of changing wind conditions, people in Waikoloa Village and South Kohala are being asked to review their evacuation plans and be on alert.

Road closures include Highway 190 between Waimea Airport and Waikola Road Junction, and Old Saddle Road. Officials warned that more roadways could be closed without notice.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said that it is likely that winds will increase throughout the day and will make it difficult for firefighters to suppress the flames.

It is requesting that residents take fire prevention measures such as removing dry vegetation and exposed fuel.

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