The fire that started over the weekend has burned about 6,400 acres on Kahoʻolawe island southwest of Maui in Hawaii. The Maui Fire Department sized up the blaze Wednesday and confirmed that due to unexploded ordnances left over from 49 years of the military using the island as a bombing range it is unsafe for firefighters on the ground or the air to attempt to suppress the fire.
The Kaho‘olawe Island Reserve Commission’s main storage facilities have burned.
“Losing the KIRC storage facility, more commonly known as ‘Squid’, to the fire yesterday was a huge setback,” the Commission reported February 26 in a news release. “Squid was home to the majority of our restoration and irrigation supplies and equipment, along with five 2500 gallon water catchment tanks, a fleet of all-terrain vehicles used to transport volunteers and gear to work sites, and water craft used for ocean management projects and activities. All of these things are vital to the restoration efforts undertaken by KIRC staff and their volunteer force.”
The fire has blackened an area on the west side of the island that is about three miles by three miles, covering about 20 percent of the 10-mile long island.
A brush fire on the smallest of the main volcanic islands in the Hawaiian Islands has burned approximately 4,000 acres on Kahoʻolawe southwest of Maui since it was reported Saturday. (UPDATE at 7:02 a.m. MST Feb, 25, 2020: on Monday fire officials said the fire had burned 5,400 acres.)
The island is sacred to the native population, but after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 the island was transformed into a bombing range. Ships fired their big guns at the island and submarines tested torpedoes by firing them at the shoreline cliffs. The weapons testing stopped in 1990 but in spite of removing more than 9 million pounds of unexploded ordnances it is still not safe for firefighters to attempt to suppress fires on the island. That includes ground-based firefighters as well as water-dropping aircraft, said fire officials on Maui.
The most notorious of the weapons tested on the island were the three “Sailor Hat” tests in which 500 tons of TNT were detonated to simulate the blast effects of nuclear weapons on shipboard weapon systems.
Air Tanker 911, a DC-10, left Richmond, Australia Monday afternoon U.S. time en route to the U.S. and within the next 24 hours will likely refuel in Hawaii. If it wasn’t for the danger of the fire burning through unexploded ordnances, it would be a rare opportunity for a Very Large Air Tanker to drop on a fire in Hawaii.
A wildfire that erupted Thursday morning on the Hawaii island of Maui burned 10,000 acres and forced thousands to evacuate. Most of the residents returned to their homes Thursday night but the fire is still active in places.
Reported at 10:42 a.m. near the intersection of Waiko Road and Kuihelani Highway, the blaze quickly jumped the Kuihelani Highway, while pushed by 15 to 20 mph winds.
The Fire Department’s two helicopters, Air One and Air Two, dropped water, and private companies and the County Department of Public Works made their dozers available.
The Maui Humane Society evacuated about 200 animals.
For a while Thursday The Kahului Airport lost commercial power and was running on generators. Incoming flights were diverted and 11 motor coaches and school busses were standing by at the airport in case visitors had to be evacuated to shelters.
Roads that had been closed, North Kihei Road, Kuihelani Highway, and Maui Veterans Highway reopened Thursday night.
Opra Winfrey, who owns a home on Maui, allowed County officials access to her private road.
Hi there Jack, Access to the road was given to county officials immediately. This was many hours ago. Hoping for the safety of all. 🙏🏾 https://t.co/BxsPNUkkJC
Above: Blue flames can be visible when vegetation buried by hot lava produces methane which vents and is then ignited. Screenshot from USGS video.
What’s happening on Hawaii’s big island as the eruption of the Kilauea volcano enters its fourth week seems like it is from another world — huge mounds of red-hot lava rumbling in slow motion over homes and forests as it makes it to the sea. Where it enters the cold water it produces what is called “laze,” hydrochloric acid steam that pours into the air along with fine particles of glass. Laze can cause lung, eye, and skin irritation and caused the deaths of two people in 2000.
Since it is the wet season in Hawaii brush fires caused by the eruption are not a big concern, but the lava finds a way to burn the vegetation regardless. The USGS explains:
When hot lava buries plants and shrubs, methane gas is produced as a byproduct of burning vegetation. Methane gas can seep into subsurface voids and explode when heated, or as shown in this video, emerge from cracks in the ground several feet away from the lava. When ignited, the methane produces a blue flame. Intermittent short bursts of methane are visible in the center area of the video. Lava fountaining is visible to the right and left sides of the video.
The eruption and lava flow from the volcano on Hawaii’s big island has ignited vegetation, causing a fire and forcing additional evacuations.
Below is an update from Hawaii County Civil Defense issued Saturday evening:
This is a Civil Defense Message for Saturday, May 19 at 9:00 in the evening.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory continues to monitor active flows. The flow originating from fissure 20 has again split into two lobes, both are currently heading in the general direction of the 13 mile marker on Highway 137. Flow front #1 is approximately 630 meters from Highway 137 and moving about a 100 meters per hour. Flow front #2 is approximately 750 meters from Highway 137 and moving about the same speed. At the current rate, the lava flow may cross the highway within the next five to seven hours.
Highway 137 is closed between Kamaili Road and Pohoiki Road. Kamaili Road is closed between Highway 130 and Highway 137 due to a brush fire. Residents in the area have been evacuated.
The USGS released this photo today in their update on the Hawaii volcano:
#HVO#Kilauea May 16 evening update: Ash emission at the summit has decreased and is drifting slowly northward. M3+ EQs at the summit caused Hwy 11 cracking. Decreased spattering at fissure 17. goo.gl/hCVW5T