(BIVN) – The brush fire on Mauna Loa has more than doubled overnight and is now 3,205 acres in size. Most of it is burning within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. It has progressed close to the Kīpuka Kī Special Ecological Area and is two miles north of Highway 11.
Kīpuka Kī “is one of the rarest old-growth native forests of its kind in the world,” National Park Service officials say. “It is comprised of tall ʻōhiʻa, koa and mānele trees that are essential for the survival of threatened and endangered native plant and animal species.”
Additional firefighters from the mainland and Hawaiʻi have arrived and are assisting with suppression efforts. The fire started August 5 outside the park on Keauhou Ranch, the NPS says. The cause is under investigation.
“We are focusing our suppression efforts on Kīpuka Kī and are working carefully to back the fire up against a natural barrier of wide hardened lava flow so it doesn’t progress further downslope,” said Fire Management Officer, Matt Desimone. The fire is currently five percent contained.
According to the NPS:
A blended Type III Incident Management Team is managing the fire, and is comprised of National Park Service (NPS) and Hawaiʻi Island Incident Management Team members. Cooperating agencies include Hawaiʻi County, State Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) and volunteer firefighters. Six engines, a bulldozer, two helicopters and a water tender are being utilized. An additional 30-person NPS hand crew arrives today.
According to the National Park Service, strong winds and dry conditions at the 4,500- to 4,800-foot elevation have made the fire difficult to control. The blaze continues to burn both upslope and downslope on Mauna Loa.
No structures are threatened at this time, Hawaii County Civil Defense says.