Keauhou Ranch Fire Grows to 1,495 Acres

August 7, 2018, 1:28 PM HST · Updated August 7, 1:28 PM
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Firefighters on scene in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, evening of 8.6.2018. NPS Photo/D.Benitiez

The uncontained brushfire that originated in Keauhou Ranch on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi on Sunday has been exacerbated by dry, windy conditions and grew to 1,495 acres overnight.

The Keauhou Ranch Fire is mostly within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, and had consumed 1,250 acres of native forest on both sides of Mauna Loa Road by Tuesday morning. The blaze is less than a half-mile from the Kīpuka Ki Special Ecological Area – home to threatened and endangered native plant, animal and bird species – but is not threatening the Volcano community at this time.

“Our priority now is the safety of our firefighters and the public,” said NPS Fire Management Officer Matt Desimone. “The severity of the fuel conditions, the fire behavior and extremely limited personnel and resources make this a complex fire situation. We will continue to focus on collaborating with other government and private agencies,” he said. “Kīpuka Kī is our priority resource risk.”

Fire plume visible from Mauna Loa Road, above Kipukua Ki. NPS Photo/M.Wasser

Due to the high winds and very dry conditions on Mauna Loa, National Park Service, State Division of Forestry & Wildlife and County of Hawaiʻi firefighters have had limited success suppressing the blaze with a direct attack of spraying water and making fire breaks. Fire crews will utilize an indirect attack Tuesday, using natural lava barriers as a fire break. Three fire engines, two helicopters for aerial water drops, and a bulldozer are assigned to the incident.

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Two additional fire crews (30 personnel) have been ordered from the mainland. The current fire crew includes 20 NPS firefighters and firefighters from other agencies, including County of Hawaiʻi, DOFAW and volunteer firefighters from Volcano.

The fire is moving west towards Kapāpala Ranch, and is not contained at this time. It is located at the 4,500- to 4,800-foot elevation, and no homes or structures are currently threatened.

Mauna Loa Road – along with most of the national park – has been closed to the public since May 11 due to hazardous seismic activity. Rain is not expected until Tuesday night, when moisture from Hurricane Hector is expected to impact Hawaiʻi Island.

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