Pu‘ukoholā Heiau Recovering from Brush Fire Damage
Pu‘ukoholā Heiau National Historic Site in Kawaihae will remain closed Monday and Tuesday after the Kawaihae brush fire that began on Saturday afternoon engulfed an area of more than 4,650 acres, including 90 percent of the vegetation on the park’s 80 acres.
Park officials say the site could open as early as Wednesday after firefighters complete the extinguishing of hot spots in the park and park archaeologists come through the area to access damage to cultural sites.
Pu‘ukoholā Heiau, the massive stone temple where King Kamehameha the Great launched his successful quest to unite the Hawaiian Islands in 1810, did not sustain any damage in the fire. The Mailekini Heiau, below the Pu‘ukoholā Heiau, did not sustain any damage either.
Park representatives say the brush fire came within feet of the site’s visitor center and headquarters but firefighters were able to put it out prior to reaching the buildings. Phone service and internet are not available at either facility. Water and electricity are available at the visitor center.
“We are incredibly grateful to all the agencies and volunteers who banded together to fight this fire,” said Park Superintendent Daniel Kawaiaea. “Thankfully, there were no injuries to visitors or park staff. We also appreciate the kōkua from our sister parks, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnauanau National Historical Park, Alakahakai National Historic Trail, and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, who are providing resources and staff.”
In addition to burning most of the parks vegetation, including non-native grasses and shrubs, and native species like pili grass, pua kala, and ma’o, the brush fire melted temporary solar light fixtures along its main path.
The park’s 43rd annual Ho‘oku‘ikahi Establishment Day Hawaiian Cultural Festival is scheduled for Aug. 15 and 16. A decision on whether or not the event will be held will be decided upon by Tuesday.
“Our biggest concern at this point is the safety for the public, our employees, and the festival participants,” Kawaiaea said. “In addition to the fire damage, there is also a tropical storm expected to impact us later this week.”