Update 5: North Kohala fire 60% contained; estimate of burned area reduced to 1,000 acres
Update at 8:20 p.m. on Tuesday: A Hawaiʻi Fire Department official said the Akoni Pule Fire in North Kohala now is 60% contained. The official also said the estimated area that has burned has been reduced to 1,000 acres.
Update at 6:20 p.m. on Tuesday: The Hawaiʻi Fire Department has lifted the mandatory evacuations for Kohala Ranch (between Kamakani Loop and Kohala Mountain Road/Highway 250), Kohala Estates, Kohala Waterfront and Kohala By the Sea subdivisions. Residents who evacuated may return to those areas.
However, Kohala Ranch between Kamakani Loop to Akoni Pula Highway/270 remains under mandatory evacuation.
Access to the northern portion of Kohala Ranch is accessible to Kamakani Street via the Kohala Mountain Road. Akoni Pule Highway remains closed between the 6- and 17-mile markers.
Update at 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday: The Akoni Pule Brush Fire brush in North Kohala has burned about 1,800 acres. While the fire has not grown since about 1:30 p.m., the blaze is not contained.
Talmadge Magno, Civil Defense Administrator for Hawai‘i County, said the wind is blowing in a favorable northeast direction, away from homes in the Kohala Ranch subdivision.
The fire has damaged the roof of one home within the 3,500-acre gated subdivision, with 12 people evacuating to the Hisaoka Gym in Kapa‘au and six to the Waimea Community Center.
The following roads remain closed:
- Akoni Pule Highway (Highway 270) is closed between the 6 and 7 Mile Markers until further notice.
- Kawaihae Road (Highway 19) is closed between Kawaihae and Waimea due to downed utility lines near the 63 Mile Marker.
In the neighboring subdivision, Kohala Estates, Narrissa Spies said residents were told to evacuate but most had not as of Tuesday morning. However, many packed their cars in case they had to leave in a hurry.
“People are generally pretty calm,” Spies said. “You can’t see much smoke anymore.”
The National Weather Service has extended a Red Flag Warning till 6 p.m. on Wednesday. Winds are blowing at 30 to 45 mph with gusts to around 60 mph.
Spies said there were gusts as high as 72 mph. Winds have been blowing consistently at 50 mph.
Magno said the fire is burning through grasses and shrubs among homes within the gated community. Home lots range from just under an acre to five acres.
Approximately 130 personnel are on scene battling the blaze. Crews include Hawai‘i Fire Department, volunteer firefighters as well as the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
Update at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday: Hawaiʻi Fire Department officials are calling the fire that broke out in North Kohala early this morning the Akoni Pule Fire. It has now burned about 1,800 acres.
Fire officials say is it not spreading as quickly as it was earlier. Crews are working to get bulldozer lines around it to stop the spread.
In another brush fire that broke out Tuesday morning in South Kohala, crews are now doing mop up duty. It was contained a few hours ago and burned about 20 acres.
Update at 12:50 p.m. on Tuesday: Mandatory evacuations are underway for the brush fire that started early Tuesday morning off of Akoni Pule Highway (Highway 270) near Kohala Ranch.
The areas that are being evacuated:
- Kohala Ranch, north and south of Ala Kahua Street
- Kohala By the Sea
- Kohala Waterfront
- Kohala Estates
More than 600 acres have been burned as of noon on Tuesday, according to Talmadge Magno, Civil Defense Administrator for Hawaiʻi County. The fire is burning brush amongst homes in the Kohala Ranch subdivision. The roof of one home has already been burned.
Evacuation shelters have been opened in North Kohala at Hisaoka Gym in Kapaʻau and in Waimea at the Waimea Community Center.
Due to the indirect effects of Hurricane Dora, high winds and dry air are leading to the fast spread of the North Kohala fire.
With east-northeast winds of about 40 mph, with gusts as high as 60 mph, it is too windy for helicopters to fly and drop water.
Big Island state Sen. Tim Richards, who lives in and represents the area where the brush fires are burning, said just before 12:30 p.m. that “screaming” makai winds are fanning the flames of brush fires in Kohala.
He has been in contact with Hawai’i County Mayor Mitch Roth about the situation and said a request was made for assistance from the military. Richards has exchanged texts with Hawai’i Adjutant Gen. Kenneth Hara and in contact with Pohakuloa Training Area Commander Lt. Col. Timothy Alvorado.
Unfortunately, the high winds are keeping military aircraft grounded, but the senator said Hara told him that when they can be there, they will be.
For their safety, Richards urged the public in the area of the fires to pay attention to warnings and notifications coming from Hawai’i County Civil Defense and the Hawai’i Fire Department. He also implored people to make sure they are getting information from verified sources.
“With these winds, the situation can change very quickly,” Richards said. “So you need to be vigilant.”
Hawaiʻi Fire Department reports the second brush fire in Waimea near Lalamilo subdivision has been restricted within containment lines.
Avoid all these areas.
Update at 9:04 a.m. on Tuesday: The North Kohala fire off of Akoni Pule Highway is still considered a runaway fire with no containment, Hawai‘i Fire officials confirmed this morning.
A few structures are in an area of concern, however, no mandatory evacuations have been ordered at this time.
Hawai‘i Fire Deputy Chief Eric Moller said the blaze has jumped the highway and is now burning on the mauka and makai side of the road.
The North Kohala fire will be an all-day operation and likely into Wednesday morning.
Moller said the South Kohala fire off of Lalamilo Road is 20 acres and not actively spreading. Crews will remain on scene throughout the day to deal with hot spots.
Update at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday: A second brush fire on the Big Island has broken out in the South Kohala District in Waimea.
Kawaihae Road (Highway 19) is closed between Kawaihae and Waimea due to downed utility lines near the 63 Mile Marker.
A mandatory evacuation was called for the Kohala Ranch area, with two residents taking shelter at Hisaoka Gymnasium.
A second evacuation shelter also has been opened at Waimea Community Center.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, a brush fire broke out in the North Kohala District off of Akoni Pule Highway (Highway 270) near Kohala Ranch.
Portions of Highway 270 between mile markers 6 and 7 are closed until further notice.
Drivers in that area should expect traffic delays and are advised to avoid the area when possible and to use Kohala Mountain Road (Highway 250) instead.
Fire personnel are on the scenes, and smoke may be visible in these areas.
Power outages in the area may affect communication streams to the public. To receive timely and essential alerts, the County urges residents to sign up for Everbridge messages from Civil Defense. This service allows individuals to receive critical notifications directly through their preferred communication channels, enabling them to make well-informed decisions in real-time. To register for this service, please visit https://member.everbridge.net/371914103062563/login.
For more information, please visit the County of Hawaii Hazard Impact Map.