A major wildfire has engulfed thousands of hectares of dry vegetation in Hawaii County, prompting evacuations and threatening residential buildings.
The 40,000-acre fire started Friday morning off Mana Road in Waimea, Hawaii. By Saturday, it had swallowed over 10,000 acres, and the Pu'u Kapu Hawaiian Homestead and Waiki'i Ranch areas were ordered to evacuate immediately.
Hawaii Volunteer Fire Captain John Birch told West Hawaii Today that at one point Friday, one of the fire fronts was four miles in length.
Two homes in the Puukapu Subdivision division of the Hawaiian Lands Department were destroyed. An evacuation order for Waikoloa village was canceled Sunday, but firefighters are warning residents and tourists to remain vigilant.
The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency tweeted Sunday morning, warning residents of South Kohala and Waikoloa Village to "prepare their homes for the fire."
"The area of the fire is moving west, north and south due to the wind," the agency wrote in its Sunday incident report. "Please prepare your property and remove any debris or exposed fuel to prevent fire." Fire brigades are actively backfiring and creating fire strips in the area."
Strong winds are driving flames through fire lanes, and thick smoke obstructing visibility has forced the Old Saddle Road to close between Highway 190 and Highway Daniel K. Inoue. The National Weather Service office in Honolulu predicts strong trade winds, with conditions improving from Monday.
Conditions are so dry in parts of the island that the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park closed the Hilina Pali and Mauna Loa roads to traffic to reduce the fire hazard.
“Keeping safe while protecting the natural and cultural resources of the park is our top priority,” said Fire Safety Officer Greg Vanderburk. "Fire indexes in both areas are in excess of 90%, and any fire that occurs will be difficult to suppress, which could lead to a major fire."