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South Kohala Information Update for November 30th, 2020

Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) crews contain a brush fire that scorched over 1,140 acres along Highway 190 (Mamalahoa Highway).

Published by: HIRSC - Hawaii Island (Holualoa and Kamuela) Team

The Hawaii Fire Department (HFD) along with the Hawaii Police Department (HPD) responded to a report of a large brush fire that broke out along Highway 190 (Mamalahoa Highway) Saturday afternoon (November 28th).

The initial call came in at 2:01 pm Saturday afternoon and HFD crews from the Waikoloa, Waimea, and South Kohala Fire Stations along with Battalion 2, Chopper 2, Chopper 1, Volunteers from the Pu'uanahulu, Waiki'i, Anekona, Kohala Ranch, and Kalaoa Mauka Stations, U.S. Army Fire Department from Pohakuloa Training Area (PTA), and HPD officers from the South Kohala Patrol is at the scene located on Highway 190 near the 9-mile marker in South Kohala.

Upon the arrival of emergency crews, numerous reports came from motorists that a brush fire broke out in the Keamuku Maneuver Area, off of Highway 190 at the 9-mile marker, and burning an area, approximately the size of a football field. Dry conditions along with breezy trade winds blowing in the area cause the fire to grow in size. Smoke from the fire was visible from Waimea and the Waikoloa Village.

Once emergency crews arrived at the scene, HFD crews worked to gain control of the fire, however, due to breezy trade winds and dry conditions in the area, brush fire quickly spread further up in the Keamuku Maneuver Area. The fire later jumped Highway 190 began burning the open pasture (owned by Parker Ranch) along the makai (ocean) side of the highway and burning approximately 1-mile down Waikoloa Road.

HFD crews encountered a few challenges while battling this brush fire:

  • Access to the fronts of the fire was very limited and HFD and PTA Fire crews utilized 4x4 brush trucks and tankers to access fronts of using existing firebreaks. Chopper 1 and 2 conducted bucket drops in areas inaccessible by ground crews. Two private contracted bulldozers later arrived at the scene and began cutting fire breaks around the perimeter of the fire.

  • The fire was also burning in a heavy canopy of large eucalyptus trees making containment of the fire near the origin difficult. HFD and PTA crews will continue to monitor that area during the overnight hours and work to extinguish smolder hot-spots and flare-ups.

  • Water supply was very limited at the scene, HFD Engines and Tanker shuttled water to and from water supply sources located in Waikoloa Village and Waimea. Department of Public Works (DPW) crews brought a large water tender (5,000-gallon water tank) to assist HFD and PTA crews with an additional water supply.

HPD officers closed Waikoloa Road (Highway 191) and Highway 190 between Old Saddle Road and Daniel K. Inouye (Highway 200 or Saddle Road) due to smoky conditions on the highway and while HFD crews work in the area to gain control of the brush fire. Waikoloa Road and Highway 190 from Daniel K. Inouye Highway to Waikoloa Road was reopened just after 11:15 pm Saturday evening. Highway 190 was later reopened to one lane of traffic on Sunday morning (November 29th) and all lanes were reopened on Sunday afternoon.

HFD crews were able to have the fire under control just after 8:00 pm Saturday evening and would remain at the scene during the overnight hours ensuring fire breaks hold up and also monitoring and extinguishing any hot-spots and flare-ups within the burn area.

The fire had burned an estimated 1,140+ acres. HFD officials confirmed that sparks from a welder had ignited a fire within the eucalyptus forest. However, no injuries or damage to structures were reported.

HFD crews are expected to be monitoring the area over the next few days to ensure the fire is fully extinguished.

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