The driver and eight passengers of a tour van heading to the summit of Mauna Kea on Nov. 9 had to evacuate the vehicle after it caught fire and was eventually engulfed in flames.
The University of Hawaii reported today the occupants evacuated after smelling smoke while driving up the access road to the volcano’s summit.
University of Hawaii Maunakea Rangers, part of the UH Hilo Center for Maunakea Stewardship, arrived to a van engulfed in flames about five minutes after the emergency was reported.
“When we arrived on scene, explosions were coming from the vehicle, and our priority was to keep everyone away from harm and make sure that emergency response was called,” Rangers member Oscar Pouoa said in a statement.
A federal fire crew from the Pohakuloa Training Area, located about 12 miles away, arrived approximately 30 minutes later and extinguished the fire.
The van was destroyed.
“This is an important reminder that the mauna can be as dangerous as it is awe inspiring,” said CMS Executive Director Greg Chun said in a statement. “It’s isolated, we can experience extreme temperatures and conditions, and fire burns faster on the summit. That’s why our rangers are a key part of the Center of Maunakea Stewardship, where we also work hard to build relationships with multiple agencies to ensure coordination when responding to emergencies like this one.”
The UH news release noted the driver, who safely evacuated the passengers, prevented further injury by acting quickly.
Chun also reiterated that emergency services may be up to two hours away from the summit area when an emergency occurs.
Additionally, cellphone coverage is unreliable, and there is only one public emergency phone on the summit.