East Hawaii News

Firefighters Mopping Up Hot Spots, Flareups in Ka‘u

June 21, 2012, 12:54 PM HST
* Updated June 21, 4:39 PM
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Hawaii County firefighters today are extinguishing hot spots and flareups in the fire that continues to smolder makai of Highway 11 in Ka‘u.

The fire that began Monday and initially threatened the town of Pahala has now blackened more than 4,800 acres, a Hawaii Fire Department spokesman said at noon today.

Five fire units were working to put out flareups and establish firebreaks along the fire’s southern edge, which is not yet contained. However, that fire is reaching areas of fairly barren lava and department officials are hoping it will burn itself out.

Two units were monitoring the fire just below Highway 11 between the 48- and 51-mile markers, while another unit was extinguishing hot spots above the highway near the 49-mile marker where the fire had jumped over the roadway earlier in the week.

The department’s Chopper 1 was making water drops as needed, fire officials said.

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Several hours of rain Wednesday had given firefighters a badly needed boost and allowed police to reopen the highway to traffic. The roadway, the main arterial between Ka‘u and the rest of East Hawaii, was closed Tuesday because of smoke and other hazards but was reopened Wednesday afternoon.

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Battalion Chief Warren Sumida said this morning that while the sun was shining today, which prompted some flareups, other weather conditions were more favorable.

“Luckily the winds are not that strong,” he said.

A second fire two miles above the highway in the area of Alii Springs Road and Higashi Camp Road was nearly completely contained after burning about 400 acres earlier in the week.

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While several homes near the 49-mile marker were threatened earlier by the fire, no structures were damaged.

Crews have been continuing their cleanup of soot and smoke damage at the Ka‘u Hospital. The 15 long-term care patients moved on Monday to the Na‘alehu Community Center returned to the Pahala hospital Wednesday night.

***Updated at 4 p.m. to note the return of the Ka‘u Hospital patients.***

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