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North Hawaii Information Update for August 2nd, 2021

Numerous agencies from all over Hawaii Island worked to contain a major wildland fire that started on Friday, July 30th, and has scorched over 40,000+ acres and destroyed several homes in North Hawaii.

Published by: HIRSC - Hawaii Island (Hōlualoa and Hilo) and Nevada (Las Vegas) Teams

The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) along with the Hawaii Police Department (HPD), Department of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW), U.S. Army Garrison Fire Department at Pōhakuloa Training Area (PTA Fire), Department of Public Works (DPW), Hawaii County Civil Defense (HCCD), and numerous private agencies responded to a report of a major wildland fire that first broke out near the Pu'ukapu Farm Lots off of Mana Road in Kamuela, South Kohala on the morning of July 30th, 2021.

The initial call came in at 10:49 am Friday, July 30th, 2021, and HFD Crews from the Waimea, Waikoloa, South Kohala, North Kohala, and Captain Cook Fire Stations along with Battalion 2, Chopper 1, Chopper 2, Volunteers from the Anekona, Waiki'i Ranch, Pu'uanahulu, Kohala Ranch, Kalaoa Mauka, and Ocean View Stations, HPD Officers from the South Kohala and Kona Patrols, DOFAW Fire Crews, PTA Fire, DPW Crews from South Kohala, and numerous private agencies and contractors responded to the scene located off of Mana Road near the Pu'ukapu Farm Lots.

During the initial response on Friday, July 30th, HFD Crews worked to contain the brush fire near the Pu'ukapu Farm Lots, however, the gusty trade winds in the area had pushed the fire towards the southwest out of HFD crews reached by ground and HFD Chopper 2 and Chopper 1 worked to extinguish fire fronts closes to structures and homes inside the Pu'ukapu Farm Lots. By Friday evening, the fire had burned an estimated over 1,000+ acres just outside of the Pu'ukapu Farms Lots and along the northwest slope of Maunakea. Private bulldozers arrived at the scene and began to cut breaks in the area to help fire crews reach fire fronts.

Smoke from the fire was visible on GOES Satellite and smoke was lingering and also clouding the skies in Waikoloa Village, Puakō, and to a lesser extent the Kona Coast.

On Saturday, July 31st, 2021, HFD Crews continued to battle the runaway brush fire, which had grown to a size of overnight was estimated to be over 5,000+ acres at first light on Saturday morning. HFD Crews along with DOFAW, PTA Fire, and other agencies continued with firefight by air and land, however, the strong and gusty trade winds caused the fire to explode in size to be roughly over 10,000+ acres by Saturday afternoon and moving in different directions, which by Saturday evening, the mandatory evacuation order for the Pu'ukapu Farm Lots and Waiki'i Ranch Subdivision was put in place and numerous residents in the area were redirected to an emergency shelter set up at the Waimea District Park Gymnasium in Kamuela, South Kohala. Ranch and landowners from throughout the North Hawaii region had stepped up and offered assistance to those being evacuated with livestock to have a temporary place while the firefighting efforts had continued into the evening.

Due to the continued fire spread, numerous wild animals (including feral sheep, goats, and pigs) were reported to be crossing numerous highways and roadways to the south away from the fast-moving brush fire.

A very interesting weather pattern had formed during the firefight and it was noted 'Fire Tornado' was seen near the Waiki'i Ranch subdivision. By Saturday evening, the fire had grown in size to be about 17,000 acres and had reached Old Saddle Road, forcing the closure of the full length between Highway 190 (Māmalahoa Highway) and Highway 200 (Daniel K. Inouye Highway or Saddle Road). All agencies continued with their firefighting efforts through Saturday evening and continuing to prevent spread or damage to homes in the Waiki'i Ranch Subdivision as well.

Smoke also from the fire had also continued to cloud the lower South Kohala and North Kona Coast, causing poor visibility and also air quality as well. In the course of Saturday evening, the fire had destroyed an estimated 4 structures (including 2 residences) inside the Pu'ukapu Farm Lots, and HFD crews had continued to work very hard to prevent further spread or damage to any residences and structures in Pu'ukapu.

On Sunday, August 1st, all agencies continued to battle the fire from numerous fronts near the Pu'ukapu Farm Lots and Waiki'i Ranch area. Winds in the region had once again ramped back up and had pushed the fire even more and continued to surround the Waiki'i Ranch area and also pushing towards Highway 190 and also towards a residence located near the 9-mile marker on Highway 190.

The fire then jumped Highway 190 in numerous areas and began progressing towards the west and also prompting emergency officials to activate the EAS (Emergency Alert System) and order an emergency mandatory evacuation order for residents in Waikoloa Village at 12:05 pm. HPD Officials immediately went door-to-door to all residences in Waikoloa Village and later opened the Waikoloa Village Emergency Route at the end of Hulu Street and also forced HPD Officers to temporarily change the traffic pattern of Waikoloa Road to allow residents to safely evacuate. The fire spread also caused the immediate closure of Highway 190 between Waimea-Kohala Airport (MUE) to Waikoloa Road (Highway 191).

As the fire continued to push towards Waikoloa Road and further west and southwest along Highway 190, HPD later shut down Highway 190 between Waikoloa Road to Highway 200 and also Waikoloa Road from Paniolo Avenue to Highway 190 to allow fire crews to fight the fire fronts. Fire officials later began setting back burns to help stop the spread of fire. Thanks to hard work by fire officials, they were to able keep the fire at bay and prevent the fire from becoming a further danger to Waikoloa Village. By 5:00 pm Sunday evening, HFD Officials had estimated the fire had burned an estimated 40,000 acres.

At around 7:00 pm Sunday evening, County Officials announced the mandatory evacuation order for Waikoloa Village, Waiki'i Ranch, and Pu'ukapu Farm Lots had been lifted and the fire situation had stabilized and crews would continue to monitor the scene overnight for any further flare-ups and extinguishment of hotspots.

On Monday, August 2nd, Numerous fire agencies were continuing with hotspot and wet down operations within the burn area and also continued to conduct backburn operations to help eliminate any further threat near the existing burn area. HFD officials say they are expected to remain in the area over the next few days to ensure full extinguishment of this brush fire.

At 5:30 pm Monday evening, HPD announced that Highway 190 and Waikoloa Road were reopened to all traffic, and the only road closure that remained in effect was Old Saddle Road. Local traffic would be allowed to access their residences and land in Waiki'i Ranch.

At 7:00 pm Monday evening, HPD announced that Old Saddle Road reopened to all traffic.

Parker Ranch officials say the fire had scorched an estimated 50,000 acres and says damage assessment is underway to determine the value of property and assets listed in this fire.

As a way of saying thank you to all those involved in the fire fighting efforts in North Hawaii, numerous private businesses and community members helped prepare meals and refreshments for first responders and also help local residents affected by the fire as well.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation and a full assessment of property and asset damage is currently being conducted.

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