DLNR officers stepping up patrol of closed areas on Mauna Loa
The public viewing area and traffic mitigation route set up to view the lava flows from Mauna Loa while it was erupting will close at midnight tonight and enforcement officers with the Hawai‘i Department of Land and Natural Resources will be stepping up their patrols of closed areas.
“As the Mauna Loa eruption and lava flow has ended, and the government response is being demobilized, there remains concerns that with the public viewing area closing some people may decide to walk in and enter closed areas,” Chief Jason Redulla with the Land Department’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement said in a press release.
There have been incidents since the eruption began at the end of November when people were caught within closed areas on the mountain.
On Dec. 7, three men from Kazakhstan were discovered in the closed area of the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve and cited for entering. They face petty misdemeanor charges in Hilo District Court on Jan. 20, 2023. If convicted, they could be jailed for 30-days and face fines up to $500 each.
On Dec. 4, during a media tour, a Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement officer contacted three people walking up Mauna Loa Access Road. They were warned and ordered to leave.
“There are hidden dangers such as lava cooling, jagged and sharp rocks and uneven surfaces, as well as potential unexploded ordnance that make trekking through the area extremely dangerous,” Redulla said in the press release. “Getting cited pales in comparison to getting hurt and having to be rescued from rugged backcountry areas. [Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement] officers will be monitoring closed areas frequently and will cite or arrest anyone violating the closure.”