(BIVN) – Two new brushfires flared up in Kaʻū on Wednesday — one in the area of Nāʻālehu and the other in Pāhala – as efforts to contain previous fires along the Kohala coast continue.
The County of Hawaiʻi reported just after 2 p.m. that the Nāʻālehu brushfire is under control, and fire crews are shifting focus to Pāhala.
The Akoni Pule Highway brushfire that threated neighborhoods on the Kohala coast remains at roughly 60% contained as of this afternoon. Officials say there is still a threat to structures in the southern portion of Kohala Ranch between Kamakani Loop and the highway.
“Access is available to the northern portion of Kohala Ranch, above Kamakani Loop, via Kohala Mountain Road,” the County reported. “Akoni Pule Highway remains closed between the 6 and 17-mile markers.”
Fires continue to burn in the Mauna Kea Beach resort area. Access to the resort area will remain closed until further notice. The County says residents have returned to the North Fairways at Mauna Kea, while the South Fairways and the Villas at Mauna Kea remain evacuated.
Queen Kaʻahumanu Highway is now open between the 69-mile marker and the Kawaihae Road Junction.
“The flare-up near Spencer’s Beach Park has made no progress toward the park overnight,” emergency officials reported. “Campers in the area were evacuated as a precaution prior to any threats in the immediate area.”
Spencer County Beach Park and Puʻukohola Heiau National Historic Site are closed until further notice.
The Lālāmilo fire in Waimea has been contained, officials say, “though crews remain on scene to monitor in the scene if a flare-up occur.”
Shelters remain open at Hisaoka Park in Kapaʻau and Waimea Community Center Waimea. “Additional shelters may be opened based on need,” officials say.
The Hawaiʻi County Department of Water Supply has issued a Water Conservation Notice asking affected South Kohala customers served by the Lālāmilo Water System to reduce water use by at least 10 percent. “Water conservation is necessary because multiple South Kohala brush fires have caused water consumption from the system to exceed the Department’s pumping capabilities,” the DWS says.
Areas affected by the Water Conservation Notice include Puakō, Kawaihae Village to Kawaihae Harbor and Industrial Area, and the resort areas of Mauna Lani / Fairmont Orchid, Hāpuna Prince, and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel.
Fires also impacted western and central Maui. “Through out the day, both counties were able to keep fire under control, but in the evening, the situation turned for Maui,” wrote Hawaiʻi’s congressional delegation in a letter to President Biden, urging the President to act swiftly to make all federal resources available and approve any request for a disaster declaration. “All efforts are currently hampered by high winds, damaged infrastructure, disruptions to utilities and communications, and the fire itself. Notably, the Maui County Fire Department estimated approximately 100 people entered the water at the beach in Lahaina, Maui to escape the advance of the fire, hospitals are under stress to keep up with injured residents, and eye witnesses have reported almost total devastation,” the letter stated.
On Maui, six people are confirmed dead due to the fires.
The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority had this message for visitors to Maui and Hawaiʻi island:
Visitors who are on non-essential travel are being asked to leave Maui, and non-essential travel to Maui is strongly discouraged at this time. In the days and weeks ahead, our collective resources and attention must be focused on the recovery of residents and communities that were forced to evacuate their homes and businesses.
Visitors who have travel plans to West Maui in the coming weeks are encouraged to consider rescheduling their travel plans for a later time.
Visitors with travel plans to stay in other parts of Maui and the Kohala Coast of Hawaiʻi Island in the coming weeks are encouraged to contact their hotels for updated information and how their travel plans may be affected. Travel to Kauaʻi, Oʻahu, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi, and other parts of Hawaiʻi Island are not affected at this time.
While Kahului Airport on Maui remains open at this time, residents and visitors with travel bookings are encouraged to check with their airline for any flight changes or cancellations, or for assistance with rebooking.
Throughout this crisis, HTA will be providing communication updates to our travel partners – airlines, accommodations, ground transportation companies, activity providers, travel agents, and wholesalers, as well as to local and national media – to ensure the public is kept informed about travel to Maui and Hawai‘i Island.
A Red Flag Warning remains in effect for Kohala, Kaʻū, and other leeward and interior areas on Hawaiʻi island.