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Kawaihae Information Update for January 10th, 2020

Vehicle fire sparks 30-acre brush fire in the Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site in Kawaihae Thursday afternoon (January 9th).

The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) along with the Hawaii Police Department (HPD) responded to reports of a vehicle fire and brush fire that started in the Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site on Thursday afternoon (January 9th).

The initial call came in at 1:14 pm and HFD crews from the South Kohala, Waikoloa, Waimea, North Kohala Fire Stations along with Battalion 2, Chopper 2, volunteers from the Kohala Ranch, Anekona, and Kalaoa Mauka stations, National Park Services Rangers and staff, and HPD officers from the South Kohala Patrol responded to the scene located on Spencer Beach Park Road at the entrance of Spencer Beach Park and Pu'ukoholoa Heiau National Historic Site in Kawaihae.

Upon the arrival of HFD crews, reports came from bystanders that a pickup truck (being described as an older model Ford Ranger) engine compartment was reported to be fully engulfed in flames and had ignited brush fire, which was reported to be growing in size due to the strong trade winds in the area. Strong winds also carried embers and sparked a separate brush fire northwest slope below Pu'ukohola Heiau.

Once HFD crews arrived on the scene, HFD crews immediately worked to extinguish the pickup and also worked to contain the brush fire on the northwest flank from further spreading. Some embers from the brush fire had landed on the rooftop of the Park Visitor Center building, however, crews were able to quickly contain and extinguish the fire from spreading into the structure. The visitor center sprinkler system was also activated as a result of the fire.

HFD crews encountered a couple of challenges with this brush fire:

  • One of the challenges they encountered was the fire burning in a culturally sensitive and archaeological significance area, HFD crews had to utilized pre-existing roads and also trails to access and extinguish the fire. A county bulldozer was initially dispatched to the scene, however, it was canceled due to that challenge. Chopper 2 was utilized to help ground crews extinguish flames in inaccessible areas.

  • Winds in the area at the time of the fire were blowing from East at 28 mph with gust of up to 50 mph and stronger had caused the fire spread and created a challenge for crews to gain control of the fire.

HFD crews had the fire contained and under control just before 2:20 pm and began mop-up and wet down operations at the scene. The brush fire had burned approximately 30-acres located within the Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site.

HFD crews later turned the scene over to National Park Service Fire Team from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Thursday evening, where they will continue to monitor the scene for any hotspots and flare-ups over the next few days.

No injuries were reported from vehicle fire or the brush fire.

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