The Keauhou Ranch wildland fire more than doubled overnight and is now 3,205 acres – most of it within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Additional firefighters from the mainland and Hawaiʻi have arrived and are assisting with suppression efforts.
The fire, which started August 5 outside the park on Keauhou Ranch, continues to burn in several areas on Mauna Loa, has progressed close to the Kīpuka Kī Special Ecological Area and is two miles north of Highway 11.
“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.
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 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.
Kīpuka Kī, a Special Ecological Area, is one of the rarest old-growth native forests of its kind in the world. 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.
Strong, gusty winds and dry conditions at the 4,500- to 4,800-foot elevation have made the fire difficult to control with limited resources, and it continues to burn both upslope and downslope on Mauna Loa. The fire started on Keauhou Ranch and its cause is under investigation.
Mauna Loa Road and most of the park have been closed since May 11 due to hazardous seismic activity.