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Ka’u Information Update for September 21st, 2020

Ka'alu'alu Brush Fire scorches an estimated 3,500 acres and Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) crews will continue to monitor the area over the next several days for flare ups.

Published by: HIRSC - Hawaii Island (Holualoa) and Utah (St. George) Team Ka’alu’alu Brush Fire Update # 4:

The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) reports the major brush fire that started on Saturday, September 19th above Ka'alu'alu Bay in Ka'u is under control and contained. HFD estimates the fire has scorched an estimated 3,500 acres between Ka'alu'alu Bay and Papakōlea Beach (Green Sand Beach).

The Hawaii Police Department (HPD) has since reopened South Point Road to all traffic as of Monday afternoon (September 21st), however, advised motorist to exercise caution in the area as HFD personnel and equipment will remain in the area over the next several days monitoring for flare-ups and extinguishing any hot-spots within the burn area.

The majority of the land scorched in this brush fire was open pasture land with low mesic forest. HFD says the dry conditions in the area along with strong winds that picked up on Sunday morning (September 20th), caused the fire to spread quickly.

Credit is being given to quick action taken by ranchers and the heavy equipment in the area that prevent further spread towards other ranch land and animal sanacutary along South Point Road. Thanks to quick action by HFD personnel and ranchers, they were able to save over several head of livestock from the fire.

There were no injuries reported, cause of the fire remains under investigation and damage assessment is being completed at this time.

The overall response from HFD for this brush fire was 19 apparatus and over 39 personnel (including volunteer fire personnel) involved with firefighting efforts along with private bulldozer and state highways bulldozer assisted with cutting fire breaks. Also, numerous ranch owners, handlers, and workers were involved with livestock movement and rescue efforts.


Recap on the overall Incident:

The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) remains at the scene of a major brush fire approximately 1-mile above Ka'alu'alu Bay in Ka'u that was first reported Saturday evening (September 19th) and has scorched an estimated 3,200 acres.

The initial call came in at 7:52 pm Saturday evening and HFD crews from the Na'alehu, Pahala, Kea'au, Central (Tanker 1), and Hawaiian Ocean View Estates (HOVE) Fire Stations along with Battalion 1, Chopper 1, Chopper 2, volunteers from the Discovery Harbor, Na'alehu, Pahala, Ocean View, Kalaoa Mauka, and Volcano Village Stations, and HPD officers from the Ka'u Patrol responded to the scene/staging area on Lio Lani Road near the bullpen.

Upon the arrival of emergency crews, reports came in from numerous residents, and parties at Ka'alu'alu Bay reported a large brush fire broke out approximately 1-mile above Ka'alu'alu Beach. An orange glow from the Ka'alu'alu Brush Fire was visible from the Ocean View, Discovery Harbor, and Na'alehu areas, which also lead to numerous 911 calls to HFD as well.

Once emergency crews arrived at the staging area, HFD crews had to utilize off-road units to access the fire on existing four-wheel-drive roads. Once HFD crews arrived at the scene, they found the brush fire burning in dry open pasture land approximately one mile above Ka'alu'alu Bay. Dry weather conditions along with variable winds of 11 mph in the area caused the fronts of the fire to move southwest towards South Point Road/South Point Park. Also, rough terrain in the area made it difficult also for crews.

Here’s a recap of the challenges HFD crews encountered while battle this brush fire:

  • Access to the fronts of the brush fire is very limited and requires the use of multiple off-road HFD units to reach the scene driving on existing four-wheel-drive only roads. A privately contracted and ranch owned heavy equipment arrived at the scene and began cutting breaks around the perimeter of the fire.

  • Both HFD Chopper 1 and 2 are at the scene conducting an aerial survey of the area and begin Bambi (Water) Bucket drop operations to areas inaccessible by HFD personnel.

  • Nighttime conditions and limited lighting in the area during their first arrival made it difficult for HFD crews to make a safe initial fire attack on the fronts of the fire.

  • Water supply in the area is also limited at the scene and HFD Tankers including multiple Type I Engines continuing to shuttling water from a water supply source located near Discovery Harbor to a portable tank set up at the staging area on Lio Lani Road. A county-owned large water trailer was being transported to the scene to help with the water supply.

As of 2:15 pm Sunday afternoon (September 20th), HFD officials reported the fire was 90% contained and HFD Chopper 1 would continue water bucket operations through the rest of the day and HFD ground crews will be working in couple sectors of fire ensure containment is maintained. The fire continues to burn along the southern flank (or near the shoreline of Ka’alu’alu Bay and Papakōlea Beach). HFD crews will continue to monitor the area over the next several days for any flare-ups and extinguish hotspots.

HPD officers temporarily closed South Point Road at Lio Lani Road as a precaution while HFD crews continued to work in the area. Non-residents including patrons and campers at South Point (Ka Lae), Kaulana Bay, Papakōlea Beach (Green Sand Beach), and Ka'alu'alu Bay have been evacuated to prevent entrapment related to the brush fire.

Some farm and ranch owners including an animal sanctuary near South Point and Ka'alu'alu Bay were moving livestock away from the area as a precaution as the fire continued to progress in the area. HFD crews and rancher handlers had rescued a few heads of livestock that were stuck in a paddock in the pasture above Papakōlea Beach and prevented the loss of livestock.

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