Highway 190 Reopened; Arson Suspected in Tuesday’s Fires
***Updated at 10:42 a.m. with additional information on Tuesday’s fires.***
Highway 190 was reopened for traffic at about 10 p.m. Tuesday night.
The roadway had been closed twice during the past two days because of smoke generated by three fires in a 9-mile stretch of the upper highway linking Waimea to Kona.
The closures forced motorists to use a variety of detours that included Kaiminani Drive and Waikoloa Road to Queen Kaahumanu Highway, and the old Saddle Road junction through the “Seven Steps” area for eastbound traffic.
The first fire blackened approximately 588 acres before being contained by firebreaks.
According to Deborah Ward, spokeswoman for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, all three fires were located in the Puu Anahulu Game Management area mauka of Highway 190, also known as Mamalahoa Highway.
Ward said this morning that arson is suspected in the two fires that started around 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.
The fire at the 16-mile marker consumed approximately 80 acres, while the one at the 23-mile marker was kept to less than 5,000 square feet, Ward said.
Both have been completely contained.
Ward said DOFAW crews will remain at the fire sites until at least 6 p.m. Thursday.
Personnel battling the blaze included 31 firefighters from the state Division of Forestry and Wildlife. They were assisted by Hawaii County firefighters as well as others from the US Army’s Pohakuloa Training Area.
Five brush trucks, on bulldozer and a water truck were utilized to battle the fires.
West Hawaii Battalion Chief Steve Loyola today said that the fire department’s Chopper 2 based in South Kohala was used to make water drops on the fires.
He crews were monitoring the fires this morning for hot spots.
Police asked that anyone who observed suspicious or unusual activity in the area during the afternoon to call the police department at 935-3311.
No structures were threatened by the blazes.