Fire strands Kalalau hikers

Crews use boat in rescue effort

by Nathan Eagle – THE GARDEN ISLAND

County firefighters and state rescue personnel yesterday evening were extricating hikers stranded by a fire that spread across the rugged Kalalau Trail, Kaua‘i Fire Capt. Kevin Souza said.

The emergency crew was using the Kaua‘i Fire Department’s Zodiac to shuttle an untold number of people from Hanakapi‘ai Beach, which is accessible only by trail or sea, to Ke‘e Beach where Kuhio Highway ends on the North Shore.

Unconfirmed reports from county officials and eyewitnesses indicated the blaze erupted from a campfire sometime late Saturday. The fire was still burning at press time, officials said.

A county lifeguard reported around 10:16 a.m. yesterday that there was a smoldering fire in the Hanakapi‘ai area, county spokeswoman Mary Daubert said.

“It was pretty much burned out with hot spots,” Souza said.

But sometime thereafter it spread across the trail, Daubert said.

An early report estimated the fire to be “larger than a football field,” Souza said.

The east side of Hanakapi‘ai Beach was burned from below up to the trail, he said.

Two off-duty Kaua‘i Fire Department firefighters assisted five emergency personnel with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, Daubert said.

Air-1 was down for maintenance, according to an Inter-Island Helicopters spokesman.

“People couldn’t get out so they activated Zodiac 1 from Hanalei Fire Station and were shuttling people out of there until dark,” Daubert said.

An eyewitness said the fire scorched acres and both sides of the Hanakapi‘ai River were burning around 4 p.m. after the trail was closed.

“Hikers had to hike hundreds of feet through the suffocating smoke to reach the trail out,” said Kaua‘i resident David Moss.

The Kalalau Trail, also called Na Pali Coast Trail, spans 11 miles along the coast, skirting rugged cliffs and lush valleys.

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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