The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) Crews have contained and continue to monitor a major brush fire that led to an hours-long closure of Highway 11 (Māmalahoa Highway) and also the evacuation of one residence on Friday evening (April 23rd).
Published by: HIRSC - Hawaii Island (Holualoa) and Maui (Makawao) Team
The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) along with the Hawaii Police Department (HPD) continue to remain at the scene of a major brush fire that broke out near Highway 11 (Māmalahoa Highway) in Honu'apo, Ka'ū Friday evening (April 23rd).
The initial call came in at 5:49 pm Friday evening and HFD Crews from the Na'alehu, Pāhala, Central (Tanker 1), and Volcano Fire Stations along with Battalion 1, Volunteers from the Na'alehu, Pāhala, Discovery Harbour, and Ocean View Stations, and HPD Officers from the Ka'ū Patrol responded to the scene located on Highway 11 near the 60-mile marker in Honu'apo.
The details received from HFD is that the brush fire was reported burning in a remote area approximately 1/2 mile east of Whittington Beach Park between Highway 11 and Ka'ū Coastline and growing in size due to the moderate trades pushing the fire towards the southwest towards Whittington Beach Park and also to the north towards Highway 11.
Due to limited access and also culturally sensitive sites nearby or within the brush fire scene, HFD Crews had to utilize existing 4x4 roads and trails to access fronts of the fire, however, due to the breezy trade winds, the fire continued to push towards the southwest and also mauka (mountainside) to Highway 11. Chopper 1 was unable to respond to the scene following the first report due to weather and also nightfall, however, is scheduled to assist HFD Crews with water bucket drops and extinguishment at first light on Saturday, April 24th.
At 7:45 am Saturday morning, Chopper 1 arrived at the scene and began water bucket operations, and assisted HFD Ground Personnel with the extinguishment of hot spots and areas inaccessible by ground crews overnight.
Aerial survey and mapping conducted by Chopper 1 of the brush fire found the brush fire had scorched an estimated 110 acres.
Due to the shift in fire direction, HPD Officers closed Highway 11 between the 58 and 61-mile markers in Honu'apo to allow HFD Crews to stage in the area and prevent further fire spread across Highway. Motorists and residents needing to travel between Pāhala and Na'alehu towns have been asked to use Old Cane Haul Road (Ka'alaiki Road).
At 7:00 am Saturday morning, HPD reported Highway 11 between 58 and 61-mile markers back open to traffic following an hours-long closure due to the brush fire. HPD continued to ask the motorist traveling in the area to drive with caution and be prepared in the event another closure is needed, as it could happen without notice.
Wind conditions caused the fire to remain out of control and grow in size. As a precaution, HFD Crews safely assisted with evacuating a nearby residence in Honu'apo, and residents and pets were able to safely make out of the area by private vehicle. HFD Crews then took a defensive attack stance to ensure residence remained at bay.
The fire also is threatening overhead electrical and telecommunication utility lines near the fire scene and Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), Hawaiian Telcom, and Spectrum have been notified and be on standby to respond in the event the utilities are compromised by fire.
Thanks to hard work and effort put together by HFD and Volunteer Fire personnel, they were able to gain the upper hand of the brush fire early Saturday morning, and prevent the fire from spreading to a residence in Honu'apo, nearby Whittington Beach Park, spread to the east towards Kawa Flats and compromising any utility lines in the area.
The HIRSC Team on Hawaii Island will continue to monitor this incident and will provide updates should any major changes occur.